Pragyan Ojha is set to move to Bengal as a professional for 2015-16 domestic season. Ojha, the left-arm spinner, received a no objection certificate (NOC) from the Hyderabad Cricket Association on Tuesday evening (June 30).
"It was a tough decision, but an important one for me at this stage of my career," Ojha told Wisden India. "I wanted to make up for lost ground. The prime objective was to play in the Elite group, and against the top teams in the Ranji Trophy. I had a frank discussion with the HCA secretary John Manoj and the president. They were happy for me and it was handled very professionally."
Sourav Ganguly, the joint secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal, confirmed Ojha's signing, but said the association was yet to take a decision on the coach.
It was reported that Lalchand Rajput was on the verge of being appointed, but Ganguly insisted he would be meeting Ashok Malhotra, the former India batsman, next week to hold talks regarding the coach's position. Malhotra, who also represented Bengal in the domestic circuit, replaced WV Raman as coach in 2013 and has held the position since.
Ojha's signing gives Bengal an opportunity to shore up their spin attack, which has been considerably weak. The combine of Saurasish Lahiri, Iresh Saxena and Amit Banerjee picked up just 24 wickets between them in the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy.
Meanwhile, Ojha, who has 113 wickets in 24 Tests, will also represent Kalighat Club in Kolkata, the team Manoj Tiwary and Ashok Dinda represent. "This is a new beginning of sorts, I'm excited," said Ojha. "The last two years have been tough, but I've worked hard, and this domestic season is quite crucial. I've been playing club cricket in Hyderabad and have been training hard since the IPL got over."
Despite not figuring in a Test since November 2013, Ojha was handed a grade B contract by the Board of Control for Cricket in India in December for 2014-15. He fell off the radar of the national selectors after being under scrutiny for his bowling action.
Ojha was barred from bowling in December 2014, and subsequently underwent four weeks of remodelling at the Sri Ramachandra Arthroscopy and Sports Science Centre in Chennai before returning for Hyderabad's last Ranji Trophy fixture against Himachal Pradesh in February.
On Monday, Ojha, who featured in just one game during Mumbai Indians' title-winning run at the IPL, was named in a strong India A side for two four-day fixtures against Australia A in Chennai in July. "I can definitely tell you it is a lifeline for me," he said. "I didn't get games in the IPL because of team combination, but I was working hard in the nets and training with Anil Kumble and the other coaches, so I'm looking forward to the opportunities this season."
Ojha's move is just one of several transfers ahead of the domestic season. Wasim Jaffer, who represented Mumbai for close to two decades, is in the final stages of signing with Vidarbha while talk of Virender Sehwag wanting to turn up for Haryana has also been doing the rounds.