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Published on August 4th, 2017 | by Suraj Choudhari

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Wriddhiman Saha: The unsung hero

Wriddhiman Saha’s voyage to recognition at the international arena was slightly delayed.  Although he debuted in 2010 against South Africa in Nagpur, but he became a regular member of the Test squad after MS Dhoni hung his boots in the Test format. There was no doubt about Saha’s wicket keeping abilities and has been a substitute for MS Dhoni on many overseas tours. He was undoubtedly the best wicket keeping option India had after Dhoni called it a day from the Test arena and was rightly given the opportunity.

Saha’s approach in Test cricket makes him an asset; his batting is based on sound techniques and has a conventional approach at the crease. He looks to bid his time out in the middle and get his eyes in. With the gloves, saying that he is reliable would be an understatement. There are hardly any sights, where Saha is seen making a mistake behind the stumps, such has been his dominance with the gloves.

Talking about his batting, Saha has grown in stature with every outing. After spending a reasonable time in Tests, a massive innings was overdue from the talented Saha. In his first 13 games, Saha averaged 23.89 and was yet to score a century. Before the third game of India in West Indies Test series, Saha boasted of the highest score of 60. In the third Test, India were under attack at 126 for 5 when Saha took guard at Gros Islet. Not many expected India to swim out of choppy waters from this juncture but Saha and Ravichandran Ashwin confronted the pumped West Indian attack extremely well to steer India to a challenging total.

Saha recorded his maiden Test century at a time when his team needed the most. Skipper Virat Kohli has shown immense confidence in his skills and Saha has seldom disappointed in the recent times. The table below demonstrates Saha’s growth as a batsman in Test over the years.

Saha’s performance with the bat in different calendar years 

Year Matches Runs Average Highest Score
2014 1 38 19 25
2015 8 255 23.18 60
2016 9 366 40.66 104
2017 7 363 51.85 117

With every outing, Saha started finding his groove and the table above is a testament to it. In 2014, he played just a solitary game but failed to make an impact. His growth has been steady and his career graph is on a hike. In the ongoing calendar year, Saha has already bettered his previous season’s numbers and averages over 50.

In the recently concluded home season, Saha played 14 Tests, scoring 524 at 34.93. One should also remember, Saha has generally batted in the lower middle-order (at 7 or 8), which speaks about the importance of these numbers.

Talking about his technique, Saha is indubitably one of the finest players against the short pitched deliveries in the Indian line-up. Saha banks on traditional technique to counter-attack short pitched stuff and he does it with perfection. Against the spinners, he often uses his feet and has done a good job for the position where he bats. He is a versatile batsman and can score runs at a brisk pace if needed. He has been a regular outfit for Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League. Saha knows his limitations and backs his strength.

In the ongoing series against Sri Lanka, India are already 1-0 in the three-match series. With the second game being in progress at Colombo, India are in a dominating position 622 for 9 declared. Another win would make Virat Kohli the only captain to have four wins to his name on Sri Lankan soil. After the heroics from Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane, it was Wriddhiman Saha and Ravindra Jadeja, who ensured India, crossed the 600-run mark. Rahane and Pujara were outstanding with the bat, accounting for 217 runs between them. Both the batsmen scored a ton apiece.

India’s 7-11 has been yielding crucial runs, which is annoying for the opposition. And one of the key reasons behind this has been the presence of Saha and Jadeja in that lineup. The duo has been churning out crucial runs with the bat and has done a commendable job to manoeuvre the side to commanding totals.

When Ajinkya Rahane was dismissed for 132, India were well placed at 413 for 5. From this juncture, a total of 600 looked dicey and needed substantial contributions from Ashwin, Saha, Hardik Pandya and Jadeja. At first, Saha shared a 38-run stand with Ashwin and then a 45-run partnership with Hardik Pandya. The most important partnership came between Saha and Jadeja of 70. The red cherry kissed the boundary on four occasions off Saha’s willow and sailed over it on a solitary event. Saha showed no hurry in placing his innings and was astute in his approach.

Saha has been instrumental behind the stumps and did well in the home season. Keeping wickets in the subcontinent is easily one of the toughest jobs, especially to spinners. And Saha did a fantastic job in keeping wickets against the best spinners in contemporary cricket – Ashwin and Jadeja. He rarely hesitated behind the stumps. In 50 innings so far, Saha has inflicted 58 dismissals.

Earlier, Saha was widely reckoned for his prowess as a wicket keeper, but now he has been a fruitful contributor with the bat as well. His success at 7 or 8 gives India solid stability down the order. An opposition can’t afford to underestimate Saha, as he gets those quiet runs and like a ghost wins you sessions, which is crucial in this format.

Saha has been the silent contributor, the underrated cricketer. He has played his part well so far and looks hungry for more. With India expected to play a lot of overseas Tests in the upcoming time, Saha’s enhancement will be handy not only as a wicketkeeper but also as a batsman. His wicketkeeping skills will be tested, but Saha hasn’t shown any technical flaw so far. In the ongoing Test, India are in total command with Sri Lanka being precariously placed at 50 for 2 at stumps, trailing by 572 runs.

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About the Author

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Suraj Choudhari is a freelance sports journalist. He is an avid follower of the game and played the sport at club level. With a radical understanding about the subtle nuances and intricacies of cricket, he tries to express it through paper and pen.



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