Wriddhiman Saha, once a perennial reserve, is now a permanent member of the Indian Test team. The West Bengal keeper-batsman has come a long way since being thrown into the mix after Mahandra Singh Dhoni's sudden retirement from the longest format of the game.
Slowly and steadily, Saha has found his feet in the Indian team, and now has a crucial role to play in the side's quest to retain the pole position in the ICC Test rankings. His brisk century against Bangladesh was proof that he has now started to express himself and
An open backing from the selectors, assuring him the team's first choice wicketkeeper spot certainly helps, but it's evident from his development that he now feels a lot more at home in the Indian team.
There were few doubts about his ability with the gloves when he first came in, but it was his batting that sometimes raised questions about his place in the side. However, thanks to captain Virat Kohli's backing and a change in batting order, Saha went from strength to strength and grew in confidence.
This boost of confidence has pushed him to take more responsibility and step up as a crucial member of the team. He knows he's in the team because of his performances and not because Dhoni has hung his boots.
India's top-heavy batting order has recently endured many mini slides, of sorts. Since the injury to Rohit Sharma, their batsman at No 5 has failed to provide the solidity that was required. But India's lower order has almost always risen to the challenge and took an innings headed to a par score to a match-winning one.
With Ajinkya Rahane back into the team and showing signs of form against Bangladesh, some burden could be eased off the hosts' lower middle order. The Mumbai batsman seemed determined to score runs and such resolve from him could just provide the jittery middle order with much-needed stability.
This is where Saha's role becomes crucial. His ability to be aggressive and score quick runs could be an asset for the Indian side trying to convert or a 400 into a 500 or a 500 into a 600. Saha, who had to often curb his instincts while batting at No 6, could now play his natural game to the side's benefit.
He can be a real danger man down the order who can take the game away from the opponents. So for, India's dodgy middle order hasn't given him the opportunity to do so every time, but against an Australian attack devoid of quality spinners, Saha could stamp his authority.
His 155 against Bangladesh was an example of what he could provide. He may find it hard to score freely under pressure at the start, but once he gets himself in, he could make up for it with his ability to score runs quickly. So he could just be the man to give an already strong batting line-up an added edge.
The role of a wicketkeeper in Test is a massive one. Selector MSK Prasad had already made it clear that Saha's glove work keeps him above Parthiv Patel in the pecking order. A keeper has the closest view of the batsmen, he can read what the batsmen is trying to do and help the captain in setting a strategy against him.
It is time now for Saha to assume a more pro-active role in aiding Kohli with his inputs. Being a regular part of the Indian set-up, the usually calm Saha could do with expressing a bit more authority, especially against the Australians, who never shy from displaying their aggression.
In modern times, with technology influencing the game, there have been additions to a keeper's role. The Decision Review System has had a huge impact on the game, and more often than not, it's the wicketkeeper whose inputs are the most vital when opting for a review. It can make or break a game.
Saha, in this case, needs to be more alert and when he is convinced about a decision, he must voice his belief aggressively. There were times when he seemed to have the right idea and knowledge of the situation, but didn't show enough conviction to force a review. When Kohli got out after his double hundred, Saha admitted that he had a feeling his captain was not out, but Kohli decided against a review as he felt he was out. The replays showed that had the Bengal player pushed Kohli to reconsider his decision — like he did the first time Kohli was adjudged LBW — we could have seen a bigger score from the Indian captain.
These things will come naturally once Saha gains more confidence, and his recent performances that includes a brilliant double hundred for Rest of India in the Irani trophy and an impressive ton against Bangladesh would have helped the cause.
The Australia series could be the one where Saha finally steps out of his shell, backs himself and expresses himself more freely. He could become a vital cog in the Indian team and develop his own identity. He's done well to be a sound wicketkeeper on whom Kohli can count on with the bat, but the Australia series could be the one where he evolves into something more.