Saha: Difficult to fill void created by Dhoni retirement

India’s specialist Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha has said it is difficult to fill the void created by Mahendra Singh Dhoni after his retirement from the longer version as the former skipper has been such a proven match-winner for a good period of time.

“I am trying to do what Dhoni bhai did for us — that is to win matches with contributions coming from his bat as well as by taking catching and effecting stumpings in crucial situations,” he said.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

When M. S. Dhoni retired from Tests in 2014, the Indian team lost not just a charismatic skipper, but also a wicketkeeper-batsman of repute. The baton passed to Wriddhiman Saha who had spent a significant part of his career in Dhoni’s shadow.

Nearly a year ago, away in Sri Lanka, Saha got his first crack at a full series as India’s numero-uno wicketkeeper. The Bengal cricketer did well in the first two Tests, scoring a couple of fifties. Just when he seemed to be establishing himself, a hamstring injury cut short his tour. He was forced out of the third and final match, and Naman Ojha replaced him.

“Nobody likes to get injured in the middle of a series,” said Saha at the Indian team’s preparatory camp here on Friday. He missed the climax of the side’s historic series victory, the first in the island country in 22 years.

Wriddhiman Saha interaction with media
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A home series against South Africa followed, and a fit-again Saha returned to the squad. A modest string of scores — 0, 20, 32, 7, 1 and 23 not out — suggested that he was yet to find his feet with the bat.

The 31-year-old realises that apart from maintaining high standards with his glovework, he is also expected to lend stability to the lower-order. “I want to contribute to my full potential by scoring those 70s, or being involved in big partnerships. I feel good batting with the lower-order, because even 30 to 50 in that situation can be crucial,” he said.

Having shared the dressing room with Dhoni during his stint with Chennai Super Kings, Saha has picked up a few tips from his superstar peer.

“I used to talk to Dhoni when we were in the same IPL team. Even in Australia, when I played in place of Dhoni bhai (who was injured), he told me about the bounce. He told me how to keep in those conditions, and how to handle pressure while batting.

“He wanted me to follow my natural technique, with a little bit of fine-tuning. For example, when he gave me some tips about ’keeping in Australia, he asked me to try it out and see if it helped. However, he never made it compulsory for me to change anything,” Saha added.

Stepping into the boots of one of India’s most successful cricketers is not an easy task, Saha admitted. “As long as Dhoni was there, it was tough for me to get a spot in the Indian team. He has been a brilliant performer who has won so many matches for India. My goal is to help the team win by taking catches, ’keeping well, and scoring some vital runs.”

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