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Newly minted father Pragyan Ojha believes development of cricket in North East will produce new talent for Team India

RECENTLY, PRAGYAN OJHA BEGAN a new innings in his life; that of being a father. Like any young parent, the 33-year-old left-arm spinner is slowly getting acquainted with his new responsibilities, and learning to juggle two arduous tasks -- taking care of a toddler and living an athlete's life; especially with the Ranji Trophy's 2019-20 season being right around the corner.

Speaking exclusively to TFG, the former Indian international recounted how, in the initial weeks after the birth of his child, life has not been the same, "Right now there is too much of action happening. We have guests, friends and family visiting us almost everyday. It’s,  honestly, till sinking in. I think we will eventually understand the changes once this initial frenzy is over. One thing that is majorly shaken up, I would say, is our sleep cycle, more so for [my wife] Karabee than me."

On September 7th, Pragyan and his wife Karabee welcomed a baby boy into the world. Days later, an enthusiastic Pragyan broke the news to the world via social media.

The final hours before the birth, though, were rather anxious for him, "Nail biting, pacing up and down. Trying to get a word from the attending staff. Of course trying to divert my mind chit-chatting with friends and family who came down. It was one ride of a lifetime and finally I’m a father. I guess this will be a different responsibility [than] I have ever shouldered."

But the way his wife handled those nervous moments, Pragyan said, helped him get rid off some of that worry, "Karabee was a rockstar. She made the whole things look easy to me and hats off to her for that. This was really her show and I can’t thank her enough for handing it so well for everyone. We men really have it easy."

Pragyan with Karabee

As a bowler, Pragyan has been through a number of high pressure situations playing for India, in Ranji or in the IPL. TFG asked if awaiting the birth of his child was relatable with those experiences, "It’s a fabulous question but its really difficult to compare. Career and family life can’t be really equated. Seeing Karabee in the hospital all wired up I felt jittery initially, but it eased out slowly as the doctors kept giving updates on the progress. In this situation I had very little to do; just wait and watch, which made it even more difficult. While playing cricket and even toughest of matches, I had a job to do; there was performance pressure, but that is something I am used to right from my younger days."

Now, almost three weeks into parenthood, Karabee and Pragyan are going through the rigours that come with having a new baby ruling their lives and daily routine, affecting sleep times and work schedules, "Yes we are struggling with sleep like every other new parent. There is never enough. But its all so worthwhile. Life is changing I believe, the baby is our focal point at home. It's tough, but extremely fulfilling and till you have a baby you would not understand what it means. How much ever you reach, research or talk with people who have had kids, there is always something new to learn every minute and you are never prepared. This is something one has to experience to know. As for my schedule, I’m doing my best to maintain the balance and give my best shot both at home and career."

Photo Courtesy - BCCI

Asked how the two were dividing the parenting duties among themselves, Pragyan said, "I wish it were a division. Honestly it is really skewed, no matter how much I do the final touch is also Karabee’s. I’m trying to giving her a hand with the chores; we also have help but like I said; it's a constant process and you are just not prepared for what is coming up next."

Pragyan's Team India colleagues, especially those who have already become parents, have been helping him out with bits of insights, "Yes, on and off when I speak with them, everyone has a nugget of advice to share or an experience. It’s actually interesting to have this aspect as a part of our conversations."

But, has becoming a father changed his perspective towards life in any way? "I would say I have become for empathetic towards my parents and probably understanding how much they have devoted their lives to raise me. It’s a feeling of renewed gratitude. Also this sense of responsibility is redefined, I believe, when you have a baby."

For many people, including athletes, becoming a parent provides a fresh dose of enthusiasm for achieving their life goals. Pragyan said he, too, identified with this sentiment, "It's more like you would want to do things for your baby and be a good father. Lead by example and want him to be proud of you, look up to you. So yes, my child’s birth is a huge impetus and I too want to do the very best in every  aspect."

Last season, Pragyan captained Bihar in the Plate Group of Ranji Trophy, helping them almost earn a promotion, in the end finishing at second place. The experience, however, gave him an up close glimpse of cricket teams from North East India, a region where the sport is not quite developed like the rest of the country but growing fast. Asked what he thought of cricket's potential in a part of the country usually known for its craze for football, Pragyan said, "It is a great experience for me to lead a new first class team.There is no doubt that India has lot of talent. It’s a wonderful thought by our board to give first class status to all the north-eastern states. This will only give a chance for them to showcase their talent at the right platform and who knows we will get some super talented players representing our country in the future."

With the Ranji Trophy set to begin in December, Pragyan faces the prospect of facing weeks, even months away from home playing cricket. While it's not a prospect he relished, he was going to stay true to his professional commitments and try to balance being an athlete and being a father, "I’m sure we will work a way out. There is no point in planning too much. Once Karabee regains her strength and the baby is allowed to travel they will come to see me. I too will have my breaks like everyone else. So we will manage, I’m sure. Thanks to technology these days you are never really away."

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