“It is a wonderful news for Wriddhiman Saha whose career has been characterized by patience. First wait for Dhoni, then a very unfortunate injury, wait for the recovery and then wait for Pant. So, from his point of view its fantastic.”
– Harsha Bhogle on Saha’s selection in the Indian test squad for South Africa’s tour of India 2019.
When it comes to wicketkeeping in India, there is no challenge to the hegemony of MS Dhoni. The captain, the finisher, the wicketkeeper who led India to victory in major tournaments. He is a complete package. But nothing is permanent and so is Dhoni.
The debate involving the best replacement for Dhoni started a long time ago and still continues. But post Dhoni’s exit from the longest format of the game, Wriddhiman Saha has been the best wicket keeper batsman for India, at least in the Tests.
According to me he is the best keeper in the world
–Virat Kohli on Saha
With Saha being the matter of discussion in the experts’ circle, it becomes imperative to look at his journey.
Wriddhiman Saha Biography
As we speak of Saha at this moment, he is India’s no. 1 wicketkeeper batsman, at least in the red ball cricket. Born on 24th October, 1984 in Siliguri, Darjeeling state of West Bengal, Saha looked up to Adam Gilchrist as his idol during his childhood.
Jayanta Bhowmick, Saha’s childhood coach, pressed on the importance of performance and consistency to come under the radar of selection circles. Saha’s coach imbued cricket to him as a team game rather as a game for personal glory.
Saha’s exposure to cricket took a rose when he shifted to Kolkata. He started playing in the first division league matches. Saha prominently played for Shamabazar club and then for Kalighat. All this time, Saha stayed at a shack with his friends cum players in the area of Koley market.
Being around in the tournaments and consistent performances earned Saha a call from Bengal state team. It was Saha’s performance in U-19 and U-22 tournaments that helped him maintain a vertical growth and landed him a first-class cricket call.
Saha debuted for Bengal in the Group B Ranji trophy, 2007 match against Hyderabad. Absence of Deep Dasgupta paved in the way for Saha and Saha graciously accepted the opportunity. Led by Laxmi Ratan Shukla, Bengal posted a mammoth total of 461 against VVS Laxman’s led Hyderabad side. Saha scored an unbeaten 111 in his debut match and also stitched a crucial partnership with Manoj Tiwary.
It couldn’t have been a better start to Saha’s career. Although Saha managed only one fifty in the rest of the games, his performance was decent enough to help him carve a place in the first edition of Indian Premier League.
Wriddhiman Saha at the Indian Premier League
Saha was drafted by Kolkata Knight Riders. The season opener match of KKR vs RCB, was lit up by McCullums blitkrieg knock of 158* from 73 against RCB. Though Saha never got to bat in that game, it was completely KKR’s night.
Saha’s batting position in the rest of the tournament was never settled. He was sent to open the batting in few games and bat down the order in the other games. Still Saha managed to score an impressive 59 against Kings XI Punjab. Saha managed to notch 159 runs in 12 games in the inaugural season of IPL.
Saha’s most recent IPL stint was with Sunrisers Hyderabad in the 2019 edition.
The National Call
Saha made it to the Indian squad for the first test in South Africa’s tour of India, 2010. His place in the playing XI was definitely uncertain but a last-minute injury to Rohit Sharma left a void which was filled by Saha, though it was unexpected. As it is said one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.
Saha couldn’t open his account in the first inning but managed to add 36 runs to the total in the second inning. The match was completely dominated by South Africa. Hashim Amla’s knock of 253* being a pioneer in South Africa’s run feast. India was never into the game and lost it by an inning and 6 runs.
An important point to be noted here is that Saha came in as a pure batsman not as a wicket keeper batsman.
Saha was chosen as a permanent reserve in the test matches by the selectors. His keeping abilities and his performance in the domestic fronts were quite good to go unnoticed by the selectors.
Saha, although being a part of the 16 men squad that toured Australia in 2011-12, got a chance to play after Dhoni was suspended on account of slow over rate. Though the Indian top order collapsed, Saha stitched a useful 114 run partnership with young Kohli for the sixth wicket. India went on to lose the game which was mostly dominated by Ponting and Clarke’s mammoth 386 run partnership in the first inning.
This was the first instance when Saha came in as a keeper batsman.
Saha’s position in the India national cricket team until then was a reserve wicket keeper. He never really got the needed no. of matches to prove his worth. It was only after Dhoni’s retirement from the red ball format post the Boxing day test against Australia in 2014, Saha became more prominent in test cricket.
In his battle for a place in the test squad, Saha played two ODIs against New Zealand in the New Zealand tour of India, 2010. Saha debuted in the first ODI against New Zealand on 28 November, 2010. Though it was not an impressive debut as he managed to score only four runs, the entire series was dominated by Kohli-Gambhir masterclass and a top knock by Yusuf Pathan in the fourth ODI of the series.
Saha played his next ODI after a gap of 4 years in 2014 against Bangladesh. Saha has never been able to cement his place in the white ball format due to constant influx of options to the selectors apart from Dhoni being dominant across formats.
Post Dhoni’s exit from test cricket, Saha has been consistently the best keeper-batsman for India. But fate yielded yet another blow to Saha in the form of hamstring. While the immediate replacement was Parthiv Patel followed by Dinesh Karthik, it was only Pant who established his spot in the playing XI until the ongoing South Africa tour of India where Saha was called back.
Batting and fielding averages
Family of Wriddhiman Saha
|Siblings||Brother- Anirban Saha|
Keeping the wickets for India
Right from Dhoni’s debut, there was never a concern for wicket keeper’s role in the Indian squad. Saha was brilliant in absorbing the initial jitters post Dhoni’s exit from longest format of the game. He has been exceptional with his acrobatic keeping skills and good batting under crunch situations. There are reasons as to why Kohli hails him as the best keeper.
But when it comes to filling Dhoni’s boots in ODI, with his retirement around the corner, there are concerns. Rishabh Pant has been entrusted the responsibility for the time being, but his performance will speak for his place in the squad in the future.
For Wriddhiman Saha to make a mark in ODI, is a herculean task. With likes of young Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant already in the tussle, Saha’s future in ODI is too difficult to predict.
As for now, we all can sit back and enjoy dominance of Indian team and hope that the level of dominance only goes increasing.
Social Media: Wriddhiman Saha
— Wriddhiman Saha (@Wriddhipops) October 13, 2019