Mumbai: Wriddhiman Saha wants to represent India in all formats of the game but the Test wicket-keeper is not losing any sleep over his lack of opportunities in limited-overs cricket, the 35-year-old told Reuters in an interview.
Wicket-keepers rarely get much attention purely for their glovework but Saha enjoyed rare acclaim during India’s home Test matches against South Africa and Bangladesh.
His smart work behind the stumps lent credence to Virat Kohli’s “best in the world” assessment and a series of acrobatic catches prompted Twitter users to dub him “Superman Saha”.
“It feels nice to read things like ‘Superman Saha’ and hopefully I can take more such catches,” he said by telephone from Kolkata.
“There’s no secret, it just seems to everyone that I have become more agile. Since the time I started playing cricket for my club, for my state Bengal, I was probably the same.
“I have probably taken many catches in the past similar to those that are being praised currently.
“The only difference is that people are able to watch the current ones on TV but the ones in the past were not broadcast. People who have played with me would know.”
While undoubtedly India’s first choice in the longest format, Saha has been unable to make an impact with the limited-overs sides, playing the last of his nine one-day internationals in 2014.
“I don’t think anyone is satisfied playing just one format,” Saha said. “It’s always more pleasing when you get to represent India in all formats as a player.
“But I want to focus on the opportunities I am currently getting and if I get a chance to play other formats I will definitely give my best to do well in those.”
After making his debut in 2010, Saha played only three Tests until the end of 2014 with his path mostly blocked by then captain and wicket-keeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
He only fully cemented his place in the test side in early 2015 after Dhoni abruptly announced his retirement from the format in the middle of a test series in Australia.
Saha, who hails from Siliguri in the foothills of the Himalayas in West Bengal, said he kept himself prepared while playing second fiddle to ‘Dhoni bhai’ — or ‘big brother Dhoni’ — and was ready to take his chance when it came along.
“I always prepared thinking I am playing the match,” he added. “I always knew Dhoni bhai will be the one playing but I still prepared as if I was going to be the one.
“I think that worked in my favour. When Dhoni bhai stepped away and I was asked to play I did not suddenly find myself in a situation where I did not know what to do and how to prepare.”
After playing 29 Tests following Dhoni’s retirement, Saha was struck by a succession of injuries.
He suffered a hamstring problem in South Africa in early 2018 before undergoing shoulder surgery the same year, keeping him out of the test team until October 2019 — an absence of 21 months.
Rishabh Pant stepped in to fill the void and scored centuries in England and Australia, prompting calls for India to invest in the 22-year-old.
But Saha’s experience and superior glovework while keeping on spin-friendly wickets at home worked in his favour and he got the nod ahead of Pant for the three recent tests against South Africa and then the two against Bangladesh.
The injury bug struck again after he returned, however, Saha having to undergo surgery in November after fracturing a finger against Bangladesh in Kolkata.
Saha expects to be fully fit by the time India start their next test series on 21 February in New Zealand.
India are then scheduled to play the longest format only in Australia at the end of the year and most of Saha’s workload behind the stumps will be provided by his fast bowling colleagues.
While most glovesmen find keeping wickets to spinners on turning tracks the biggest challenge, Saha said fast bowler Jasprit Bumrah’s unique release point always made life tricky for him.
“Bumrah is the most difficult to keep to because of the angle he bowls from,” Saha said.
“It’s one angle when a batsman plays the ball, and completely another when he doesn’t.
“For that reason it’s important to be focused all the time while keeping to Bumrah.”
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