While his work behind the stumps was never in doubt, Wriddhiman Saha was always criticised for his failures to contribute big with the bat. But his performance in the recently concluded four-match Test series against West Indies has shut the mouth of the critics at least for the time being. Saha made useful 40s in the first two Tests and a maiden Test hundred after coming in to bat at 126 for 5 in the third Test in St Lucia. His performance even made his captain Virat Kohli admit that Saha was one of the biggest positives from the Caribbean tour.
The responisibilty of replacing India’s greatest wicketkeeper, MS Dhoni, was no mean task but so far the Bengal wicketkeeper has done a commendable job.
“I won’t say the West Indies tour was the turning point of my career, but looking back, I must admit it helped clear some self-doubts. I didn’t go there with the apprehension of walking a tightrope. But at the back of my mind I had a feeling that if I don’t get a big score, a new player might come in. It was sort of looking over your shoulder. So, from that point of view, it was a satisfying knock. More so because it contributed to the team’s cause,” Saha said in an interview with The Indian Express.
He has always faced the problem of converting good starts into big scores. The shot he played in the second innings at the Adelaide Oval in 2014 was perhaps the lowest point of his career so far.
Chasing 364 for victory, India was agonisingly close of pulling off a memorable win. Virat Kohli was batting brilliantly and just needed a good support from the other end. But then an ambitious shot from Saha ended India’s hopes and they eventually fell short by 48 runs.
“I didn’t mind the criticism. I played a bad shot. I learnt from my mistake. As for not converting the starts, I should blame myself. It was about not playing to 100 per cent of my potential. It was poor shot selection. I wasn’t availing the loose balls properly, putting pressure on myself in the process. Cricket is a one-ball game and you can get a good delivery anytime. Sometimes, under pressure you err on your shot selections. No, I didn’t make any technical adjustments in the third Test. Just that I was availing the loose balls well,” Saha said.
When asked about whether he was hurt on the team’s decision of promoting Ashwin ahead of him in the batting order, he said: “No. It was a team decision, taken on the first morning of the first Test. I was pretty okay with that. In a team sport you always think about the unit and we have an excellent group, where players help each other even off the field. I was never put under pressure by the team management about getting big runs. Both Virat and Anil Kumble told me that a big score was just around the corner. And the whole team was very happy after my hundred. I was happy but it would be foolish to get carried away after a century.”
On his experience of working with Kumble, Saha said: “He had been such a great performer for India. He carries the experience. He understands our psyche. Communication sometimes had been an issue with foreign coaches. Kumble is very hands-on. He creates a comfort zone for the players.”
When the wicketkeeper was asked to compare between Kumble and former team director Ravi Shastri, he said:”That would be unfair. Shastri was the team director. His role was different from a coach.”