Thirty-five Test matches, 1,209 runs at an average of 30.22 and 97 dismissals. With those statistics, many believe Wriddhiman Saha is currently the world's best wicketkeeper, but Saha himself does not read too much into such praise. "It feels good but these are personal views. I do not have much say on that. My job is to keep performing, make sure I do not miss the balls coming to me and convert the 50 percent chances to 100 percent," he says with a monk-like expression.
In this chat with Firstpost, Saha talks about competition from Rishabh Pant, injuries, pink-ball Test and more:
How do you prepare yourself for a match?
A big part of preparation depends on the type of wicket. We plan with our fielding coach to create scenarios as close as possible to match situations. Most of us have been playing as a team for a long time, so we know each other's styles, strengths, and weaknesses. This definitely helps me to get prepared.
What is the difference between 'keeping in India and abroad?
Wicketkeeping is not easy. It is a thankless job and we are expected to get hold of every delivery, but that is the challenge I enjoy. Condition-wise, Indian pitches are mostly slow and low and that’s what we are used too for a long time. Things definitely change abroad but I generally stay prepared for both the conditions.
What is your immediate reaction when you drop a catch? How do you move on to the next delivery?
No one likes to fail, but one cannot be successful every day. So such things can happen once in a while and I am aware of it. The key to moving on quickly is to stop thinking about the drop at the earliest. If you keep thinking about it, your next action can be affected.
You are a bit injury prone. What is your take on that? How was the recovery process?
Injury is a part of sports. Football players also suffer a lot. There is no point in thinking about it. I try to focus on recovery. Some may not like to take much risk after getting injured. But I try to go back to the previous state and never compromise. I was in NCA during this period and it did help a lot.
I am still working on my fitness and trying to keep myself away from injury. Age is an important factor here as recovery time for a 20-year-old would be faster than a 35-year-old for the same type of injury. Currently, it is very important to remain fit to play longer in this team. Competition is very strong and hence being on top of the fitness level is an absolute necessity.
Your Test debut came in an unexpected scenario and you got to know about it just before the game...
Yes, just two minutes before the match. Our coach Garry Kirsten had already informed me that I was not playing that game. So I did not practice much. But the sudden injuries of VVS Laxman and Rohit Sharma opened the door for me. The first innings was not good but could score 36 in the second innings. At this level, opportunity can knock at your door anytime. So one has to stay alert always and perform.
After Dhoni, the selectors initially preferred Pant, but now they are coming back to you. How do you keep yourself ready for such constant competition?
It doesn’t matter whether the competition is with Dhoni or Pant, I have always given my all in practice like it is a match. I have kept myself ready for any upcoming chances. My focus is not on competition but on delivering the best for the team. The rest is not in my hands.
I always think about things that are under my control and work on those. I live in the present and focus on the job at hand.
As a senior wicketkeeper, what do you think of Pant?
He is performing very well at such a young age. He has already proved himself as an outstanding player in IPL and for India. If he can continue like this and improve more, the Indian team will be benefited in the long run. Rating him, though, is not my job. All I can say that his age is on his side and he has ample time to work on his career.
Who is the most difficult to keep amongst Ashwin, Jadeja, and Kuldeep?
Definitely Ashwin, as he has more variations. He can read the batsman well and apply the variations accordingly. Kuldeep is slightly slower in the air and Jadeja has limited variations in that respect.
You are now the preferred wicketkeeper in the Test format, but what about limited overs? Do you still hope for an ODI comeback?
Honestly speaking, I enjoy playing the shorter format the most. I am ready to deliver whenever I get a chance to play for India at any stage. So I am still prepared to play limited-overs cricket for India if the opportunity comes.
Let's talk about domestic cricket. How do you think our first-class structure can get more public attention?
First-class cricket is the supply line for the international players for India and so it should remain in good health. There are talks about increasing the match fee at the domestic level that would be beneficial for some domestic players who cannot make it to the Indian team. To increase public interest there should be more limited-over matches featuring star players. More matches should be broadcasted live so that the fans can follow those closely.
Obviously, things have improved a lot for all the state associations. There are changes in practice facilities and the thought process. We should keep playing with whatever facilities are given to us, as it is human nature to always ask for more. But I can say that things have improved a lot from the time I started.
Any special memory from IPL?
Everyone remembers my hundred in the 2014 IPL final but there are other good innings as well. There was a fifty for KingsXI Punjab against Hyderabad chasing 200 plus, and a 93 in Mumbai. I also scored a fifty for KKR against Punjab in South Africa. So there are quite a few.
How do you cope up with this franchise model in IPL where you have to change teams often and accordingly everything changes, including the commitment?
Well, our job is to perform on the ground. Be in Chennai, Punjab or Hyderabad we have to deliver. Although everything changes, it doesn’t impact much as we all are professionals.
When you play in IPL, you share the dressing room with players like Kane Williamson and David Warner. What factor in their cricketing culture you would like our youngsters to copy?
They have a different approach towards the game and always back their strength. At times it helps them overcome a hopeless situation and at times bring their downfall.
How was your experience in keeping to Rashid Khan in IPL?
He is a good bowler. Initially, it was difficult to pick his wrong one among his leg-breaks but with practice, it became easier.
What would be your challenges as a 'keeper in the pink-ball Test at Eden Gardens?
Firstly, there will not be much time between the Test matches and we may not get a lot of time to adapt. Then we will have to face the challenge of playing under lights.
You have played the first-ever pink-ball match in India for Mohun Bagan at the same venue.
Yes, but things would be different this time. It was a club match and this will be an international match, hence more challenging. Last time it was a Kookaburra ball and this time it will be SG ball and hence we will see a major difference. Also, dew can create a problem for the bowlers. For 'keeping, more than dew, the visibility of the pink-ball can be an issue.
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