“Mai sirf sahi se ball pakadne ka koshish karta hoon (I just try to collect the ball neatly),” said Wriddhiman Saha, while talking about his skills with the gloves behind the stumps. He might prefer to see his talent through the lens of modesty but the truth remains that Saha’s reputation is built on impressive technique.
For those who followed his journey keenly, it was no surprise that he filled the big shoes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni from 2015 in Tests.admirably It appeared that Saha’s time to shine at the highest level had arrived but sport decided to show its cruel face.
A hamstring injury during the three-match Test series in South Africa last year was the start of a forgettable phase. The Bengal wicketkeeper hurt his thumb during the IPL and then suffered a serious shoulder injury. It took a tough 18-month period, marked by frustration and confusion before Saha found his name in the Indian squad (for two-match Test series against the West Indies).
When your promising career hits a roadblock, it’s human to get angry, feel frustrated or even lose hope. For Saha, a ‘theory’ he believed since his childhood, helped him steer past the adversity.
“Since I was young, I was never insecure about my place in the team. Nor did I feel I can’t comeback in the side if I lose my place. I always tried to do well whenever I got an opportunity. When Mahi bhai left, that’s what I did in Tests and I was a regular till I got injured. You feel frustrated early on but you shouldn’t allow it to influence your game,” Saha said on the eve of India A’s second four-day game against South Africa A here.
As he was pushed to the sidelines, Saha would have felt the familiar feeling of anguish. At the first-class level, he replaced Deep Dasgupta in the Bengal side following a long wait. The right-hander was then an understudy to the talismanic Dhoni in the Indian squad. He is fighting to gain a place in the national side, yet agaiin.
“I am trying to get back by being consistent. My coaches and family were disappointed that I had to sit out when everything was going right for me. Injuries are common in sports. But age matters. A player in his 20s would have recovered faster but for someone like me who is above 30 years, the body takes time to respond. But I began staying positive during the rehab. The injury required surgery. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know what would have happened,” he said.
Once he was ready for action, the only way was up for the 34-year-old, who has played 32 Tests and 1164 runs with 85 dismissals. He returned to the Bengal side in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy last season and later slammed two half-centuries (62 and 66) against the West Indies A in the four-day games. “I missed the game for more than a year. It was great to hold the bat again. I started off with throw-downs and then spent time in ‘net’ sessions,” he offered.
Rishabh Pant, India’s current first-choice, is under scanner after his dismal show in the recently concluded two-match Test series against the West Indies. Saha, who is breathing down the neck of the Delhi youngster, wants to remain clinical. “As a wicketkeeper, I want to make less mistakes. In Tests, I give priority to my keeping skills. And I know, if I forge a 50-100 stand down the order, I can make a difference as a batsman.”