Wriddhiman Saha: I am not retiring, even if not picked for Sri Lanka series

In an interview with Sportstar, Saha talks about the ups and downs in his decade-long career. He also feels Rohit Sharma is ahead in the Test captaincy race.

India Test wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha in action.   -  FILE PHOTO/K.R. DEEPAK

Wriddhiman Saha is not retiring. He has just taken a break after a long time on the road. The acrobatic wicketkeeper, who has been a backup for Rishabh Pant in recent times, is 37. And his decision to skip the Ranji Trophy for personal reasons raised speculations about a possible retirement call.

In an exclusive chat with Sportstar, Saha, who is in Kolkata with his family, confirmed that retirement is not in his mind.

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How do you react to the conjectures about your retirement? As soon as you said you would take a break, there were murmurs.

People take a break to have family time or for other personal reasons, even Virat Kohli took paternity leave. So, why are questions being raised when I decided to take a break from Ranji Trophy?

Did you have a word with the selectors about your future? Has an indication been given to you about your future?

I have always followed the team protocol and have always made sure that I don’t reveal any dressing room conversations in the public domain. So, even in case of any personal conversations, I have maintained that it should remain personal and not be spoken in public. Even in the past, several friends and scribes would ask me whether I would be selected for the team, and my answer would always be that it depends on the selectors. I have always maintained this - be it for India or Bengal. The squad has not been announced for the Sri Lanka series yet, so how is it fair that I talk about that?

Even after your heroics in the first Test against New Zealand in Kanpur, your performance has always been under scanner. After playing international cricket for nearly a decade, how do you see this?

I think even before the Kanpur Test, a lot of people tried to prove that I was finished. After I underwent the surgery in 2018, I was the second wicketkeeper, so I think since then, a lot of people were indicating that my time is up. Even though nobody said anything openly, there were enough indications that maybe, they are planning something different. But even after playing that knock that in Kanpur, I knew Rishabh Pant will be playing in South Africa because it was clearly announced that I was drafted into the final eleven since Rishabh was on a break. So, it was obvious that he would be the regular wicketkeeper when available. I always knew that.

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You spoke about indications. What are you hinting at?

I have played under several head coaches - Gary Kirsten, Duncan Fletcher, Ravi Shastri - but no one ever asked me about any long-term plan. There were no such questions or discussions. During the home series against England last year, Kona (K.S. Bharath) was brought in as the reserve. So, does not that indicate that he is in the reckoning? It was obvious that they were bringing him into the squad with a (long-term) plan and allowing him to get used to the set-up.

But didn’t you ever walk up to Ravi Shastri or Virat Kohli and ask why you were not being given a game?

Look, I have never done that. That is not my nature. Even when I would be dropped in school cricket, I would never go to my coach and ask why I was not chosen? So, here, too, there was no question of asking anyone anything. My understanding is clear - if you are not picked, deal with it and get better. And let me make it very clear, I am not retiring from cricket, even if they don’t pick me for the Sri Lanka series.

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Will you be available for other tournaments and the IPL?

I have informed the CAB president that I won’t be available to play Ranji Trophy only for this time. I have not told him anything regarding not playing any other tournaments.

For Wriddhiman's selection, age suddenly becomes a criterion whereas for several other players age is often considered just a number… 

In my career, I have even seen 40-year-old players in international cricket. Some have continued even after 40. Some have quit early, so it is a personal decision. Now, questions are being raised about my career since I am 37, but there are quite a few other players in the team, who are closer to my age. I am curious to know whether they are facing similar questions.

How do you feel about your retirement speculation every other day in the media? It must be disturbing for your family too...

These are personal decisions. Virat stepping down as captain was his personal decision, so similarly my retirement will be my personal decision. Everyone has a start and an end. But I will not retire just because people have been talking about it. If the team doesn't like my performance and if they drop me is something I can accept. But I will not leave if people push me.

There is nothing left for you to prove. But how do you see the fact that you travel with the team but end up warming the bench...

I still remember that during my debut Test, they had told me that I will not be part of the playing eleven. So, I had to train on my own with the net bowlers, but on the match day morning, an injury to Rohit Sharma saw me breaking into the team. So, despite not being prepared, I had to walk out there and face Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. Even when Mahi bhai (MS Dhoni) was around, I knew that he would be the captain and I won’t have a chance. But I would still keep myself ready for any situation. After Mahi bhai’s exit, I was the frontline wicketkeeper for close to four years. There were a few good performances too. When a shoulder injury forced me out in 2018, Dinesh Karthik came back and kept wickets, and Rishabh arrived. He performed well and earned his chances. I never cared about who’s playing or not - for me, preparation is the key. 

Being one of the senior most players in the Indian Test squad, who do you think could be the next Test captain?

It has been Rohit Sharma in absence of Virat Kohli all the time, so I feel he is a little ahead in the race. I know K.L. Rahul also led in a few ODIs. The decision, of course, lies with the selectors and the team management. 

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