Former India wicketkeeper-batsman Naman Ojha has announced his retirement after toiling on the domestic circuit for 20 seasons. Ojha, who represented India in all three formats, holds the record for the most dismissals by a wicketkeeper in the Ranji Trophy.
Ojha, who debuted for Madhya Pradesh as a 17-year-old in 2000-01, represented India in a Test (in Sri Lanka in 2015), in one ODI and two T20Is (in Zimbabwe in 2010). After announcing his retirement at Indore on Tuesday, an emotional Ojha said he took the tough call in order to prolong his career in the shortest format in overseas leagues.
‘Right time to move on’
“Absolutely no regrets, but for the last two years, the body wasn’t coping with keeping wickets in the longer formats and with the MP team in transition, I thought this is the right time to move on,” Ojha said, who made 22 hundreds and 55 half-centuries in First Class cricket. “I will explore opportunities in global T20 leagues to keep playing the game I have loved since childhood.”
Despite being unable to lift the Ranji Trophy title for his alma mater Madhya Pradesh, Ojha was in the limelight for his contribution during the Sunrisers’ Hyderabad run to the IPL title in 2016.
“That was a special moment but the best moment of my career was obviously getting the Test cap in Sri Lanka. Also, the twin hundreds for India A in Australia (in 2014) and the double hundred in the Duleep Trophy semifinal and the Ranji Trophy hundred against Mumbai at Wankhede in 2014-15 are also very special,” he said.
Thanks to his domestic cricket and IPL exploits, Ojha earned his international debut in 2010 in Zimbabwe. While he lost his place in the side after featuring in an ODI and two T20Is during the series, his superlative form with the willow – successive hundreds, including a double during India A’s tour to Australia in 2014 – was instrumental in him debuting in Tests in 2015.
His only appearance in Test cricket was in Colombo against Sri Lanka, where he scored 35 and 21 besides four catches and a stumping. He thus became Madhya Pradesh’s first Test cricketer since offspinner Rajesh Chauhan (1993-98).
The soft-spoken Ojha remained one of the most consistent wicketkeeper-batsmen on the domestic circuit for almost two decades. His ability to be flexible with the batting position meant he scored heavily irrespective of his position. It reflects in the fact that he finished his career with 9,753 runs in First Class cricket at 41.67 and also has 471 dismissals, including 54 stumpings, to his name.
With 7,861 runs in the Ranji Trophy, Ojha finished as the eighth highest run-getter in the tournament. Add to that the fact that his 351 dismissals in Ranji Trophy are the most by a wicketkeeper in the tournament’s history.
Ojha was a member of the Sunrisers Hyderabad’s title-winning squad in the IPL, besides representing Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Daredevils earlier in the T20 league.