Wriddhiman Saha: Satisfying to come to the Indian team’s aid against New Zealand

In an interview, the wicketkeeper shares his thoughts on the recent Test series against New Zealand, competition with Rishabh Pant, and more.

Yeoman service: Wriddhiman Saha batted with a stiff neck to rescue India in the second innings of the first Test in Kanpur.   -  PTI

For Wriddhiman Saha, the just-concluded Test series against New Zealand was very satisfying. The seasoned wicketkeeper-batter batted despite a stiff neck and went on to score a half-century in the second innings of the first Test in Kanpur.

While Saha was batting firmly to ensure India did not lose the plot, back home in Kolkata, his wife Romi was admitted to the hospital due to dengue. It was an extremely challenging situation, both personally and professionally. But the seasoned campaigner did not lose focus.

Now on a short break before the tour of South Africa, Saha shares his thoughts with Sportstar on the recent Test matches, competition with Rishabh Pant, and more.

Q. How would you rate this series against New Zealand?

A. I have not been playing regularly for a while now, so when an opportunity came my way, I wanted to make the most of it. When I started my career, Dhoni bhai (M.S. Dhoni) was the main wicketkeeper, and then, after his retirement I played regularly until I suffered an injury a few years ago. And then, Rishabh (Pant) took over, so yeah, whenever there is a chance, I want to take every game seriously and look to perform to the best of my abilities. And, if my efforts benefit the team, then you feel more satisfied. The series against New Zealand was one such experience.

It is not easy to bat so long despite a stiff neck. And also, during the Kanpur Test, your wife was admitted to the hospital with dengue. So, how did you handle the situation and motivate yourself?

It was challenging for sure. When Romi (wife) was battling dengue, I would regularly keep in touch with the doctors after returning from the stadium in the evening. But my family members supported me a lot and ensured that I could focus on the Test match.

As a team, we were not in a good position in that Test and I was actually struggling due to a stiff neck. It was painful and I even thought about how I would bat in such a situation, but eventually I could control the situation. In the morning, I did a few knocking sessions and realised that I would have to take an open stance so that I could see the bowler better. I could not bend my neck much, so this was the only option. It was difficult for sure, but I had to do this for my team. Once you are on the ground, you tend to ignore the pain and focus on performing for the team. And, that’s exactly what I did.

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When you went out to bat, what was the message from the team management?

Rahul (Dravid) bhai had told me to play as much as possible and ensure that we don’t lose wickets. The target was to build a partnership and steady the innings. That was in my mind, and being a senior player, that’s exactly what I did. I am happy that it helped the team.

Do you believe that the Kanpur Test has actually given a new lease of life to your cricketing career?

I don’t think so. To be honest, I have never really bothered about what people or the media were saying about my career. The selection committee has the last word in terms of choosing a player, and I am glad that they have shown faith in me. So yeah, I don’t really bother about all those speculations and questions raised by the media or critics. My only job is to play to my strength and I will continue doing that. I have always believed that it is an honour to represent the Indian team and whenever I get a chance, I will try and put up a good show.

How do you see the change in approach in the team with Dravid taking over as the head coach? What are his instructions to the team?

Rahul bhai backs everyone to play their natural game and does not believe in tweaking too much with technique or style of play. Even Ravi (Shastri) bhai would do the same. So, there has not been a massive change. Rahul bhai works on smaller details and communicates with individual players if he fails that a certain area needs to be improved.

What are your thoughts ahead of the South Africa series? Are you working in any particular area?

I think we will get better practice once we reach there because the conditions are different. If you have to train here, then we need to practice on concrete wickets or indoor facilities, but there is not much time left for that. I think once the team reaches there, there will be some time to train. I have played in South Africa before and I know how to handle things. I will plan about it once we reach.

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During the New Zealand series, there were talks that K. S. Bharat could replace you. In your long international career, you have always been under scrutiny. How have you managed to overcome the odds?

Ever since I started playing cricket, I have not been in touch with the media, and I mostly don’t even read what’s written about me in the media or social media, so these things don’t affect me. I train hard and focus on my job and ensure that I don’t take my preparations lightly.

Not long ago, you were considered the first choice in Test cricket. But over the last couple of years, Rishabh Pant has taken that slot. How do you see this competition?

Look, such things happen in international cricket. There are phases when you are out of the team for a while due to injury. I had missed out on a couple of Test series (in 2018-19 season) due to shoulder surgery and that’s when Rishabh came in and proved his class. He has done a good job as a stumper-batter. After I recovered, there were no Test series immediately, so I had to wait for my turn. It was quite a long gap, but I did not lose confidence and have always ensured that I give my best whenever there has been an opportunity. That’s how I look at it.

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