After a spectacular performance behind the stumps in the first two Tests, Wriddhiman Saha has quickly banished all doubts about who India’s best wicketkeeper is.
Virat Kohli labelled him the world’s best while Umesh Yadav, who watched Saha grab two stunning catches off his bowling, felt the ’keeper deserved to be credited with those wickets.
Before the start of this series, it may have seemed that Rishabh Pant was India’s first-choice wicketkeeper; now, there is little doubt about Saha’s status as the No. 1 in home conditions.
But there still linger strange rumblings about Saha’s batting, as if it were a weakness. The Bengal gloveman may not possess Pant’s range of shots, or his explosive power, but he is no bunny.
For evidence, Saha may point to his performance in India’s last Test at the JSCA Stadium. The home side was 328 for six in the first innings, in reply to Australia’s 451, when out walked Saha. He scored a resolute 117 as India eventually went past 600, putting it in the driver’s seat. Had Australia not salvaged a draw, Saha’s innings might have been recalled more readily.
“I see every Test as an opportunity to contribute with the bat,” he said here on Friday. “I remember how I approached that innings and made 117. I am always looking to contribute with the bat. I try to build a partnership and score a 50 or a hundred. Everyone tries. Sometimes it doesn’t happen and it’s natural.”
Before the Visakhapatnam Test, Saha had not played for India for over a year and a half, with injury playing a part in his absence. “I was out of the national side for a while but good performances for Bengal and India-A put me back in the Indian team,” he said. “My preparation process remained the same during this period and nothing has changed.”
Part of preparation
On Friday, as Kohli batted, Saha watched from behind the nets. It was part of his preparation, he revealed. “I was just trying to have a feel of the bounce off the wicket,” the 34-year-old said.
“It definitely helps. Wicket-keeping is tough, irrespective of the surface. Everybody thinks just because wicketkeepers wear gloves, we can catch all the balls. We prepare according to the nature of the wicket. I adjust to the variations and the bounce of both Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin and keep accordingly.”
The rivalry for the wicketkeeper’s slot with Pant had not affected their relationship, Saha stated. “We discuss a lot,” he said. “We both talk to fielding coach R. Sridhar on how to keep on different wickets. When I am sitting out, like it happened in the West Indies, I observe his wicketkeeping and give him feedback during the practice sessions. Our rapport is really good. He points out my mistakes whenever he observes them.”