'Stint with Surrey helped me'

Since then, the left-arm spinner has been left to warm the benches, until returning triumphantly on Sunday to the Test fold by finishing day one of the first Test against the West Indies with figures of three for 58.

In the interim, instead of moping and ruing his fortune, Ojha took the bull by the horns, opting for a brief county stint in Surrey that he credited with keeping his focus and motivation going.

“It’s been exactly one year since I last played (for India). I didn’t get my chances for one year and I was really looking forward to this,” the left-arm spinner told newsmen. “I did my homework verywell. I played County cricket, I got some experience there and then I played in the Irani Cup where I tried some variations. It really helped me here.

“When I was out of the team, I took things in a positive way. I was talking to seniors like Anil Bhai, Bhaji Pa and also with Rahul Bhai, Laxman -- they all advised me to go and play County cricket and get some experience there. When you play there, there is a lot of responsibility on you, they expect you to win games for them and that’s how you grow as a cricketer. It really helped me a lot.”

The Feroze Shah Kotla track, Ojha said, didn’t offer much joy to the bowlers on the first day. “The wicket wasn’t doing much, it was about sticking to one line, getting my basics right and just playing with the patience of the batsmen. The wicket was playing slow, I just wanted to bowl in the right areas.”

Ojha was delighted with the scalp of sticky opener Kraigg Brathwaite. “Getting that stumping was simply amazing,” hegushed. “He was beaten in the flight and I really enjoyed it. I am looking forward to tomorrow, when we will get the five wickets and put them on the field.”

There was plenty of praise for Shivnarine Chanderpaul, unbeaten on 111. “He is one of the legends of the game and he has played very well. The wicket wasn’t doing much and he used his experience. Very well played by him. More than his stance, the amount of experience he has got is amazing. I really enjoyed bowling against him and while he was batting, there were a couple of half-chances while he was sweeping, it fell short of square-leg. It is a great battle, bowling to a legend, and hopefully I will get him out.”

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