Saha back in the game after months on recovery road

Wriddhiman Saha spent nine months on the sidelines after injuring his shoulder and the Bengal player talks about his long road to recovery on the eve of the team's Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 campaign opener against Mizoram.

With the World Cup in England around the corner, there are no more Test series lined up for India in near future.   -  PTI

A shoulder injury picked up during the Indian Premier League last year had sidelined India's first-choice Test ’keeper Wriddhiman Saha for nine months, holding the door ajar for young Rishabh Pant, who has since made a strong case for himself with twin hundreds in England and Australia.

Now as Saha gears up for what will be his first bout of competitive cricket in a long time, the Bengal 'keeper recollects the long and arduous road to recovery.

"Right after the surgery, the strength and movement of the shoulder were obviously very less. It was a step by step rehab," Saha tells Sportstar on the eve of Bengal's Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 campaign opener against Mizoram at the Barabati stadium in Cuttack on Thursday.

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"Slowly I started adding weights. It all culminated with keeping, knocking and then batting by gradually increasing pace. First on the mat, then on the ground. I am feeling much better now," he added.

With the World Cup in England around the corner, there are no more Test series lined up in near future. And Saha, who plays for the Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL, acknowledges the rigours of the shortest format while putting his situation into context.

"T20 is a tough format for its sheer pace," he says before adding, "That said, if you are coming back after an injury, as a keeper-batsman, standing on the field for four-five days is more challenging than doing glovework for 20 overs.

"I have been practising with the Bengal team for the last three-four days now, let's see how it transpires on the ground."

Preference for part-time keepers

In recent years, teams have veered towards batsmen who could also keep wickets, especially in the age of T20 cricket where the gap between bat and ball often tends to slip too far.

Commenting on the trend, Saha noted, "Today, a keeper ought to be able to contribute with the bat. Of course, there are instances where part-time keepers have been preferred, not only in the IPL but in international cricket as well.

"There have been chances behind the stumps that have gone begging which wouldn't have been the case had there been a specialist gloveman in the squad.

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"This isn't to say there won't be any lapses with a proper keeper, but the odds reduce drastically. To that end, yeah, it's crucial for a proper keeper to play."

With former India batsman Rahul Dravid taking charge of the India A and under-19 teams, there has been a steady influx of talent into the senior men's squad, both in longer and shorter versions of the game, and Saha feels the smooth transition holds Indian cricket in good stead.

"India's reserves are brimming with talent. Whoever is outside the playing XI or features in the pool of 16 odd players is performing consistently and hence, in the reckoning for a national call-up.

"Everyone is eager to perform which augurs well because healthy competition can only help the team do better," Saha said.