It was in early 2016, when Wriddhiman Saha was selected for India’s tour of West Indies as a wicket-keeper-batsman following M S Dhoni’s retirement from the Test cricket.
And he proved the selectors right, after scoring match saving and his maiden Test hundred off just 223 balls. And, since then he has been working on improving his game.
The 31-year-old wicketkeeper, however, is nowhere as flamboyant as Dhoni was.
While Dhoni, known for smashing big shots to suddenly take the game away from the opponents, Saha is different. He has a variety of strokes. He is low on power and depends more on timing.
In India’s historic 250th Test win against the New Zealand at the iconic Eden Gardens in Kolkata, Saha emerged as the real winner as he played a vital role in India’s victory.
Saha’s twin fifties (54* & 56*) at the Eden Gardens helped India crush New Zealand by 178 runs and take an invincible 2-0 lead in the three-match Test series.
It is for the first time, Saha has posted a fifty each in both innings of a Test match. And after these twin fifties knock, Saha became the fifth batsman to register two unbeaten knocks in a Test match for India. He has joined the league of Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Bapu Nadkarni and Rahul Dravid after this.
For his twin fifties against the Kiwis, Saha also received his first ‘Man of the Match’ award in 17 Tests. Mahendra Singh Dhoni was the last Indian wicket-keeper to get the MoM award in Tests, for scoring 224 vs Australia at Chennai in February 2013.
Saha’s this achievement not only made the selectors proud, but also the Indian Test captain Virat Kohli who heaped praises on Saha, calling him the ‘best keeper in India’.
“Saha is the best wicket-keeper in the country right now and he’s doing a great job in Test cricket. That hundred in the West Indies really improved his confidence; he now understands how to bat with the tail now. Saha is wonderful behind the stumps and can bat. He backs himself to play his shots.”
Also Saha, for his majestic effort at Eeden gardens, joined an elite list of Indian wicketkeepers. Only three before him had scored two fifties in a Test match. MS Dhoni had done it four times while Farok Engineer and Dilawar Hussain had achieved the feat once each.
Saha has the determination and temperament. His composure behind the stumps has already left Indian cricket fans in awe.
But to be a permanent team member, Saha needs to bring some pace to his innings. Fitness is the area will be of more concern for him. He might not be able to replace Dhoni’s aura among the Indians, but his stability with the bat and amazing moves with gloves behind the stumps can strengthen the No 1 Test team!