Wriddhiman Saha: MS Dhoni's true successor?
The stage was set for a classic face-off between the top two Test playing nations. With tempers flaring in Bengaluru, it was time for Ranchi to host its first ever Test match with the series levelled at one all.
The third Test match evenly poised on Day 3, it was a record-breaking partnership of 199 runs for the seventh wicket between Cheteshwar Pujara and Wriddhiman Saha that put the Indian team in a commanding position.
In the land of MS Dhoni, it was heartening to see his successor Wriddhiman Saha rise to the occasion and produce one of his best knocks till date in the longest format of the game.
Like most Indian players, Saha too went through the grinds of age group cricket with the Under 19 and Under 23 team before making his Ranji trophy debut against Hyderabad in the 2007 season. He scored an unbeaten 111 and became the 15th player of Bengal to score a century on debut.
Thousands of runs in the domestic circuit resulted in Saha being picked up as a reserve wicket-keeper in the home series against South Africa. An injury to VVS Laxman and Rohit Sharma just before the game handed Saha his test debut at Nagpur on February 6th 2010.
Although he did not have a great first innings, he scored a patient 36 in the second outing.
When MS and his Indian team were creating history in the world arena, Saha kept on consistently piling the runs and honing his wicket-keeping skills in first-class cricket. He was regarded as the best wicket-keeper in the country after MS Dhoni.
Hence it was no surprise that post his retirement, Saha was the automatic choice as the wicket- keeper of the Indian team.
Despite being a slow starter in Test cricket, Saha has emerged as a vital cog in this new look Indian Test team. One of the hardworking blokes in the Indian Team, Saha has shown tremendous keeping skills on tough pitches and has been one of the standout performers for the Indian team throughout this home season.
The wicket-keeper’s technique and temperament to keep wickets on turning tracks has earned him accolades from the cricketing fraternity. Moreover, Saha’s contribution with the bat lower down the order has been immense.
The never say die attitude has been one of his greatest strength throughout his career.
It took a while for him to get into his own with the bat but constant backing from the captain and the coach meant a big score was around the corner. Saha didn’t disappoint them either as in his 14th match, he scored his maiden Test match hundred (104) against the West Indies at St Lucia.
His crucial half-centuries in both the innings of the second test against New Zealand on a difficult Eden garden pitch earned him a maiden man of the match award. Just as he was settling into the international circuit, an untimely thigh injury ruled him out of the last three test matches of the England series.
However, the Indian team management, along with the captain backed the keeper-batsman and Saha, on the other hand, worked extremely hard to regain fitness and he did not let the management down in his comeback match.
Playing for Rest of India in the Irani Cup, the wicketkeeper scored his maiden unbeaten double hundred (203) and combined with skipper Cheteshwar Pujara to stitch an unbeaten 316 for the fifth wicket and help ROI chase down a mammoth 379 against the Ranji Trophy Champions Gujarat.
Saha marked his comeback into the Indian team from injury by scoring his second hundred (106*) against Bangladesh in the one-off Test at Hyderabad.
The series against the mighty Australians was next up. The Bengal wicketkeeper was brilliant with his glove-work in the first two tests. His one-handed blinder in the first innings of the Pune test to send back Steve O’keefe can be regarded as one of the best catches in recent times.
Despite not many runs under his belt in the first two tests, he was at his very best with the bat in the first innings at Ranchi. Dealing with a barrage of short pitch bowling and verbal volleys, Saha slowly went about his business of building a partnership along with Pujara, and script the most famous seventh wicket partnership for India.
He slammed his third test hundred which was undoubtedly one of his best innings till date. The gritty knock at Ranchi surely is an indication of great things to come in the future for Indian cricket.