The 5 best moments of Wriddhiman Saha's Test career
Overlooking the tired and jaded set of international cricketers, who had started the first day of the 1st Test match of the series with expectations galore, the sun shone its brightest just minutes before it would set into oblivion over the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium in Pune. The Indian Cricket Team had done well to restrict their counterparts Australia to a relatively easy score and the last ten overs was just a play in motion. Awaiting the call of stumps; hoping to walk away sooner than later, away from the scorching heat towards the comforts of the dressing room.
A swinging delivery by Umesh Yadav, aimed away from the batsman Steve O’Keefe. Edged. Usually enough to go past the outstretched hands of the wicket-keeper and first slip, as it would land silently in no-man’s land, amidst ooohs and aaahs from the fielding side. But not this time.
An alert Wriddhiman Saha flung himself to his right as if his whole life depended on that one ball. Eyes firmly fixed towards his goal; an outstretched figure in the air, gliding like a smooth object as the ball firmly nestled in his gloves. The Superman from India had accorded one of the most memorable catches of the season thus far.
That catch was simply not just a mere catch. It was an amalgamation of Saha’s years of patience and perseverance as he was constantly overlooked due to MS Dhoni’s presence in the squad. It reflected his innate desire to ‘catch’ hold of every opportunity that came by, even though he know that Dhoni’s presence would push him off the radar.
His Test debut, way back in 2010, was won after injuries to VVS Laxman and Rohit Sharma. His second Test came two years later when Dhoni was fined and suspended for slow overrate. His third was in 2014, when the then captain had suffered an injury and was unable to travel to Australia for the first match of the Test series.
Having exemplified grit and dedication in the few limited chances that he received early on in his career, Saha remains a cricketer who is willing to push himself in all aspects, well aware that his journey from a regular squad member to a regular member of the Test team has been replete with constant obstacles and hard-earned compliments.
#5 A lucky debut amidst injuries
Luck favours the brave, they say. It presents itself in unexpected opportunities and moments that leave one surprised, bewildered and full of joy. And so it panned out for Wriddhiman Saha, who had been drafted into the Bengal Ranji team after Deep Dasgupta joined the rebellious Indian Cricket League in 2007. Having scored a hundred on debut for Bengal, Saha vastly impressed his Kolkata Knight Riders teammate Ricky Ponting, who effusively praised the youngster for his wicket-keeping skills and his calm demeanour.
But this is where it seemed almost unfortunate. With captain Dhoni still going strong, a place for Saha in the national team looked bleak. For the South Africa series in 2010, he was asked to join the squad as the back-up wicketkeeper. But it was unanimously assumed that he would just remain a touring player, with his chances of getting a game being next to nought.
Rahul Dravid and Yuvraj Singh had already been ruled out of the crucial Test series with Rohit Sharma and Subramaniam Badrinath being called in as replacements. However, injuries to Rohit and VVS Laxman paved the way for an unlikely Test debut for Saha in Nagpur in the very first game of the series.
With South Africa managing a mammoth 558/6d in the first innings, the onus was on the Indian batsmen to go within sniffing distance of the target. However, the team was shot out for just 233, with Saha having a nightmarish start to his international career, being bowled by Dale Steyn for zero.
With Graeme Smith inflicting a follow-on, the Indians had to play out of their skins to avoid an embarrassing humiliation. When Saha came out to bat in the second innings, India were still 133 runs away from overhauling South Africa. In the next 101 deliveries, he fought tooth and nail to hold one crease up, fighting his way to a hard-fought 36, which was the third highest score in India’s second innings. He stitched together a 50-run partnership with Harbhajan Singh for the seventh wicket and with Zaheer Khan, he put on 59 runs for the eighth.
Even though his efforts were unable to save India from an innings defeat, it showed his resilience and his knack of playing with the lower-middle order, a skill not possessed by many.