Apart from playing the dual role of donning the big gloves and contributing runs, an alert wicketkeeper-batsman enriches a team with his value-added services from behind the stumps.
The world has seen the likes of Adam Gilchrist, Kumar Sangakkara, Mark Boucher and Ian Healy serve their teams with distinction.
For India, Wriddhiman Saha has been playing the role of a complete wicketkeeper-batsman in Tests after the exit of the charismatic M.S. Dhoni in 2014. With his reading of the game, Saha has been an asset for India in the longer version.
As the Indian team had its first nets session at the Eden Gardens (without Cheteshwar Pujara and Ravindra Jadeja) ahead of the opening Test against Sri Lanka, starting here on Thursday, Saha threw light on his third and less noticeable role in the Indian side.
According to Saha, collecting deliveries from Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami was the most challenging task.
“Ishant and Shami are the toughest to keep against as the ball wobbles after crossing the wicket. It gets tough to catch for a keeper. In Umesh and Bhuvi's case this does not happen a lot as they are swing bowlers,” Saha said on Monday.
Saha picked the wily R. Ashwin as the toughest to read among spinners. “Ashwin is ahead as far as difficulty in keeping is concerned. Ashwin has more variation than Jaddu (Jadeja) and Kuldeep (Yadav).
“We (me and Ashwin) have played a lot together. As a wicketkeeper, the longer you keep, the better idea you get. It is easier to keep against him now than before.”
About the challenge of handling the spinners, the 33-year-old said, “Reading the hand is 50 per cent of the job. After that, bounce of the wicket and whether it is turning also matter. The challenge is to catch all the balls.”
The most interesting aspect of Saha’s job is sharing his ideas with the captain as the match progresses. “The team management always asks me (to) give feedback to (captain) Virat (Kohli) and (vice-captain) Ajinkya (Rahane), who stand in the slips.
“I tell them about fielding and bowling changes that can be done.”
As a batter, Saha, who scored 97 for Bengal in a Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha on Sunday, can play an important role for the host.
Never a man to project his individual achievements, Saha, when reminded of his man-of-the-match award against New Zealand in the previous Test at the Eden last year, chose to speak about his team’s goal. “Whatever it is, we will try to win the first Test match and the series.”
Saha preferred not to link the present series with the tougher tour of South Africa early next year. “The Sri Lanka series is not a preparation for South Africa. If we do well here, then we can think of South Africa,” said Saha, putting things into perspective.
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