Wriddhiman Saha, who waited patiently, till former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s retirement from the longer version of the game, for getting into the Indian team, is slowly firming up his place there.
After his good showing with the bat on the West Indies tour and the series against New Zealand, the 32-year-old Bengal stumper, who is known for his safe hands and clean glovework, has proved his worth as a useful wicketkeeper-batsman in the National team.
In the middle of a long home season, India depends on Saha to provide a lot of balance to the team. Saha, who has played 18 Tests (till the end of the New Zealand series) in six years, too understands that he needs to be more consistent both in front and behind the stumps and works hard to achieve this objective.
Saha spoke to Sportstar recently about his game and aspirations.
Question: You have batted consistently against the West Indies and New Zealand. What is the reason behind your success with the bat in Test cricket?
Answer: The way I prepared, I have been able to implement it in the matches. I tried to bat consistently and it went off well for me. I did not try to do anything different. I just focused on the basics, but was able to implement those things well on the field.
How do you assess your growth as a batsman?
Since my childhood, I have never changed much in terms of preparation. If I keep performing the way I am doing now, then I don’t need to change anything.
Do you think the faith shown in you by coaches, captains and selectors has helped you become mentally secure and overcome odds to play better?
It has its contribution. Since they have been showing trust in me, I am getting morally boosted up. I know I am going to play. I get a sense of security. Suppose I don’t do well and keep thinking that I may be out of the team, then it may hamper my performance.
People tend to compare you with M. S. Dhoni. Did that put you under pressure when you took Dhoni’s place in Test cricket?
Before playing full time, I have spent a lot of time with the team and I have seen how Mahi bhai handles things and prepares himself for a match. There is no pressure on me as I have spent a lot of time with him.
I don’t like to be compared with Mahi bhai. He has played so much for India, led India to so many victories. I have just started my international career. I don’t know why people compare me with him. Of course, both of us are different from each other. No two players can be the same and everyone has his unique style — the approach to the game and style of play varies from person to person.
Has you style of wicket-keeping changed over the years?
There are no changes in my ’keeping. My preparations for domestic and international matches remain the same. I have been doing the same things in batting and ’keeping since childhood.
Is there a change in the team environment since you made your debut in 2010?
The atmosphere was cool then as it is now. But most players of the present team have played together for a long time — be it India ‘A’ or any other level. So, there is more understanding and rapport among us.
Do you nurture any ambition?
I want to keep doing the good work and play for India as long as possible. I want to help the team win a lot of matches.
You have worked with two fielding coaches, R. Sridhar and Abhay Sharma. Tell us about your experience.
I have spent a lot of time with Sridhar bhai in Kings XI Punjab. He is a good coach. I have also worked with Abhay bhai on the India ‘A’ and West Indies tours. He has also taught me a lot of things. These inputs are proving to be useful.
Do you think given a chance you can also do well in ODIs and T20Is?
It is up to the selectors, who decide on the teams. My job is to keep performing. If I get a chance, I will try to give my best.
What is the one thing that you want to do like Dhoni?
Mahi bhai stays so cool on the ground, not only during ’keeping, but also during batting. I like the way he finishes off so many matches. If I can perform even 20-30 per cent like him, then I will be more than happy.
With whom do you share your thoughts about cricket more?
Mohammad Shami is a little close because we play together for Bengal also. But, I have a good relationship with everybody in the team. I discuss things about cricket with a few people outside the team also, but normally I avoid talking cricket outside the ground.
How has a wicket-keeper’s role changed over the years?
The role has changed a lot than what it used to be in the 1980s and 1990s. There are so many top wicketkeeper-batsmen like Sangakkara, Mahi bhai, Gilchrist etc., who have set a high benchmark. The more you contribute with the bat, the better for the team in the lower order. The wicket-keepers’ role as batsmen is becoming more important every day.
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