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Wriddiman Saha is letting his gloves do the talking

Aryan Surana
Modified 21 Dec 2019, 00:47 IST

Wriddhiman Saha is arguably the best wicket-keeper in the world.
Wriddhiman Saha is arguably the best wicket-keeper in the world.

Reinforcing his moniker as the 'country's best wicket-keeper'- and to his captain, 'the best in the world- Wriddhiman Saha provided a determined lesson in the onerous art of wicket-keeping in the Pune Test against South Africa. While the technique he employed to gather the ball cleanly on a deteriorating surface captivated attention, the zealous plunge to snaffle an uncurbed flick by Theunis de Bruyn left viewers gasping in awe of his incredible athleticism.

Saha's magnificent glove-work received legitimate applause from the cricketing fraternity and soon became the talking point of India's dominant series-clinching victory over South Africa.

But not long ago, Saha was lying in a hospital bed in Manchester, contemplating whether he would ever don the whites again for India, as he recovered from a career-threatening shoulder injury picked up during the Indian Premier League.

Saha's rehabilitation began at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore with the doctors keeping a vigilant eye on his progress. Fielding coach Abhay Sharma worked harmoniously with the stumper, organizing personalized sessions focused on improving body mechanisms gradually.

The early morning routine involved catching drills aimed at harnessing reflexes, followed by a light gym program to nurture strength. Former wicket-keeper Ajay Ratra also played an instrumental role in fine-tuning Saha's glove-work with hours of diligent practice.

Fit again, Saha was hungry to perform. Vital knocks with the bat accompanied by excellent wicket-keeping performances in the unofficial matches facilitated his resurgence into the national team for the Carribbean assignment. However, Saha warmed the bench as youngster Rishabh Pant featured in the playing eleven on recent form.

The onset of the home season, characterized by rank turners, demanded quality glove-work and Saha unarguably got preference over his junior counterpart.

Captain Virat Kohli heaped praise on the wicket-keeper batsman, declaring him as a first choice in the traditional format, "Yes Saha is fit and fine to go. He is going to start the series for us. His keeping credentials are for everyone to see. He has done well with the bat whenever he has got a chance."

"It was unfortunate that he was out with an injury. According to me, he is the best keeper in the world. With these conditions, he starts for us. Saha was always the one we would back as a pure keeper in Test cricket. He has done well under pressure situations in the past for us, so it was just about finding the right opportunity and the moment to bring him back in." highlighted Kohli in the press-conference before the series opener.

Raising the wicket-keeping benchmark to unprecedented heights with purity of glove-work that refuses to diminish, Saha has now become an indispensable part of the Indian squad in the longest version of the game. With the World Test Championship underway, Saha will be extremely crucial to India's march in the premier competition.

To put things in perspective, Saha grasps an exceptional 96.9% of chances against pacers, the highest conversion rate among modern-day keepers. Moreover, Saha's accurate observations behind the wickets assist bowlers to formulate plans, while also helping the Indian skipper make the right calls when opting for DRS.

While cynics recklessly argue that he's on the wrong side of 30 or he doesn't score enough to hold a position in the star-studded batting line-up, Saha believes in doing his job with utmost sincerity and passion.

The spinners will go on to bag fifers again and the quicks will continue to rattle oppositions with brute pace, but Saha will keep diving feverishly to prevent that single bye, unmovable and unfazed.

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Published 17 Oct 2019, 22:55 IST
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