“When I didn’t get any response from the CAB, I felt I had no dignity left” – Wriddhiman Saha explains his decision to quit Bengal

Wriddhiman Saha. Image Courtesy: Press Trust of India
Wriddhiman Saha. Image Courtesy: Press Trust of India

Much water has flown under the bridge since Wriddhiman Saha’s omission from the Indian Test squad for the two-match home series against Sri Lanka earlier this year.

A cricketer who has never courted controversies during his 12-year-long international career, Saha is now vocal about the incidents that have affected him lately. The ax from the Test squad and the spat with Boria Majumdar, the journalist who allegedly threatened Saha while demanding an interview, had a demoralizing effect on the experienced wicketkeeper.

Saha felt even more aggrieved when the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) joint secretary Debabrata Das questioned his commitment to Bengal cricket after he pulled out of the Ranji Trophy group stage matches citing “personal reasons”.

Later, Saha was named in the Bengal squad for the Ranji knockouts, but the “hurt” stumper decided to quit Bengal after CAB refrained from taking any action against Das for his scathing comments. The two parties officially parted ways on July 2 (Saturday) once Saha obtained a No-Objection Certificate (NoC) from the CAB.

On July 8 (Friday), Saha was unveiled as Tripura’s new player-cum-mentor, thus putting an end to months-long speculation about his new state team. Tripura Cricket Association (TCA) joint secretary Kishore Das, who accompanied Saha while he signed the agreement during a press conference in Agartala, confirmed that the 37-year-old will represent Tripura in the Ranji Trophy and Vijay Hazare Trophy matches.

A veteran of 40 Tests and 122 first-class games, Saha was one of Gujarat Titans’ (GT) star performers during their victorious Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022 campaign. Playing 11 of GT’s 16 matches, Saha scored 317 runs at an average of 31.70 and a strike-rate of 122.39.

Moments before boarding the Agartala-bound flight, Saha spoke exclusively to Sportskeeda about his new chapter, his fallout with the CAB and the possibility of him returning to Bengal as a coach in the future.

Here are excerpts from the conversation:

Q: After representing Bengal for over 15 years, Wriddhiman Saha is now officially a Tripura player. Apart from Tripura, which other teams were seeking your services?

Saha: I neither revealed this earlier nor will do so now. Without knowing everything, many people started floating names of states (laughs). I don’t want to talk about such rumors.

Q: Sources suggest that (Tripura Cricket Association) TCA officials have offered you a captain-cum-mentor role. Does joining a less-fancied team like Tripura mean that you’ve given up all hope of an international comeback?

Saha: The Indian team told me in February that they wanted to look beyond me. After performing well in the IPL, I thought they would consider me for the Birmingham Test against England. Had they considered me for a Test recall, things could’ve been different. Everything is in the hands of the selectors. I hold no grudges against anyone and completely respect their decision.

Q: Did chief selector Chetan Sharma or anybody from the Indian team management congratulate you after you did well in this year’s IPL?

Saha: No.

Q: How much did that affect you?

Saha: In professional sports, you should never be bothered about what others think of you. You’re still a kid if you sit in a corner and sob just because some people didn’t appreciate you.

Q: What aspect of Tripura’s offer appealed to you the most?

Saha: I always give my best to whichever team I play for. I enjoy taking responsibility and Tripura were keen on giving me added responsibility. Plus, I have some post-retirement plans and I think the mentor’s role at Tripura will help me gain some experience on that front. I want to share my cricket knowledge with as many people as possible.

Q: If Bengal offer you a coaching position in the near future, would you be open to accepting it?

Saha: CAB president Avishek Dalmiya hinted at such a possibility when I met him a few days back. He asked me if I had any plans of returning to the Bengal team in a different capacity after my retirement. I told him that I would first look at their plans and then decide.

Q: Bengal lost another golden opportunity to win the Ranji Trophy after capitulating to Madhya Pradesh in the semi-final. Do you think your presence in the Bengal middle order could’ve made a difference?

Saha: Experience always makes a difference, but the boys who played the semi-final tried their best. Having played international cricket for a fairly long time, I know how to deal with pressure situations. That said, Bengal played pretty well throughout the season, even without me.

Q: Why are Bengal unable to win the Ranji Trophy despite getting so close? What is the major difference between Bengal and teams like Madhya Pradesh and Mumbai?

Saha: I think we lack consistency in the knockout stages. We need to handle pressure situations better. There’s always more pressure in knockouts than in league matches.

Q: Do you think you’ve got enough support from the Bengal media fraternity?

Saha: I’ve got a lot of support from sports journalists in Bengal. At the same time, there are people who try to show me in a bad light, perhaps for their ulterior motives. I have no complaints against them though. If I play poorly, you should criticize me. But why would you question my integrity despite seeing my discipline and hard work?

Q: CAB joint secretary Debabrata Das, who questioned your commitment to Bengal cricket, has been sent to England as Team India’s manager. Did you feel bad about it?

Saha: After he [Das] made those comments, I asked Avishek Dalmiya to do something about it. However, CAB took no action and he was instead rewarded. That means nobody paid heed to my request.

The matter wasn’t so serious that it couldn’t be resolved. I never imagined that I would have to leave Bengal someday. But when I didn’t get any response from CAB, I felt I had no dignity left. I’ve always played the sport with a lot of passion and commitment, so it hurt me even more.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar
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