Team-mates and coaches who worked with Wriddhiman Saha rate him as an individual of a rare breed for bringing good human qualities and cricketing talent to the table in equal measure.
Ranadeb Bose is one the few persons to have watched Wriddhiman Saha’s journey from Ranji Trophy to international cricket. First as a team-mate and then as a support staff of the Bengal team, Bose has had the privilege of seeing Saha’s growth since his first class debut as a shy wicketkeeper-batsman in 2007.
Bose recounts Saha’s early days in the Bengal side as if they happened only yesterday. “There is no difference in Saha’s wicket-keeping. He has been like this from day one. He was fit, had good reflexes, took unbelievable catches and we all knew that one day he would play for India,” says Bose, with a sense of pride.
Analysing Saha’s wicket-keeping, Bose, who led Bengal’s pace attack for many years, says, “If Saha is behind the stumps, you know he is not going to drop too many catches and give your best. You cannot imagine how secure a bowler feels when a good wicket-keeper is on the job. I have seen Saha take some terrific catches. We all knew that he would catch everything. If he did not, then that was news. Saha is a gifted ’keeper. He does not have too many technical issues and he is immaculate in his fitness, diving, catching and stumping. Besides, he is extremely disciplined.”
For Bose, Saha’s improvement as a batsman is a big positive. “He needed to improve his batting. Initially, he was struggling against the short ball. But he has worked on his batting and has become better. He has also got runs in the Indian Premier League. In Tests too, he has got a hundred in the West Indies and has done well against New Zealand.
“I have seen many India cricketers from different teams switching between National and state duties, but Saha is different. He does so effortlessly. He gets along with the squad very well and gives his best. One can hardly believe that this man is playing for India as he always keeps a low profile and is approachable.”
Bose, now a Bengal bowling coach, says he has never seen Saha crib about anything, even his long wait for a permanent Test slot. “He is a person who lives in the present. He has never complained about anything and never shows his emotions.”
Sourasish Lahiri, Saha’s Bengal and Mohun Bagan club team-mate, recalls how the star ’keeper would never let “ego” affect his behaviour towards anyone. “It was certain that he would be a big player from quite early in his career. And even when he got the India cap he would never let ego come in the way when he was with his teammates.
He is someone who would promptly take a bottle of water to a younger teammate even at the club level. He is unassuming and soft-spoken and a wonderful human being,” Lahiri says.
“Apart from Bengal, we also played for Kalighat and Mohun Bagan together. He is extremely fit and technically very sound. He never looked exhausted and gave me the extra confidence as he stood behind the stumps. He is extremely organised mentally and remains on-the-job as the ideal team man,” the Bengal off-spinner said.
“He was my room-mate when he first got into the Bengal team. And from the very beginning he was a very nice human being. He would never say no to any request be it during practice or in a match,” Lahiri said. “I will never forget my 100th First Class game and the last one of my career where Bengal needed a point against Madhya Pradesh (in the 2014-2015 Ranji season) to avoid being relegated to Group C. Wriddhiman was never superstitious about anything, but after we had shared a 90-run match-saving partnership (for the eighth wicket) batting for almost five hours, he came up to me and said, ‘Look, we did not speak a single word during the partnership, we just punched each other’s gloves occasionally and went back to our positions. I think that worked like a totem for us.’ I was quite surprised at this, but realised that he had his own way of working up his resolve,” Lahiri recounted.
Former Test wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya said, “Definitely, Saha is the best wicket-keeper for Test matches and has got the safest hands. He is a hard-working and dedicated player. Coming from Bengal, which does not have too many spinning tracks, it is amazing how he has kept to the bowling of spinners. I should give full credit to him. Batting is an added responsibility these days and you need to be a better batsman than a wicket-keeper. I was surprised to see his batting standard in recent matches.”
Jayanta Bhowmick, who shaped Saha’s career after the latter joined him as a young trainee in Siliguri in North Bengal, says that Wriddhiman was born with a lot of attributes that helped him shine in the sport. “Wriddhi was reticent since the beginning, but he was a fast learner and was very devoted to his game. He always worked for perfection and it was his unflinching discipline that separated him from the others. I have coached many talented boys, but no one was as disciplined as him,” says Bhowmick.
“Punctuality and dedication to the game were the other attributes that helped him earn the India cap. He was always focused since the time he joined me as an under-13 player. He got some tips about wicket-keeping from his father (Prashanta), who was a fine goalkeeper and used his football skills to keep wickets in cricket with great success,” Bhowmick reminisced. “Above all, his extraordinary human qualities make him an even better player. This is something which one may not find in many international cricketers. He plays the club matches with the same sincerity as he does when he is wearing the national colours,” the coach added.
“He is also very fit and alert. He may appear a bit relaxed, but he is a very good athlete and this shows in his quick reflexes when he is keeping wickets. These attributes convinced me about Wriddhiman’s ability to become a great cricketer,” Bhowmick concludes.
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