Aha! What a wait it was for the wicketkeeping bus!

His skipper, Virat Kohli, says he is the best right now; Wriddhiman Saha — the India Test wicketkeeper — shares insights into his life.

Wriddhiman Saha, India’s first choice wicketkeeper in Test cricket.   -  K. BHAGYA PRAKASH

Spring, a crazy ball, a superman in whites, a player straight out of Cricket 2007 — the Electronic Arts-designed popular PC game back in the day; you run out of brushes to colour the phenomenon Wriddhiman Saha is. The India wicketkeeper, in the longer format, times his jumps so abruptly that it seems somebody controls him via a keyboard.

The word ‘wait’ dominated his career. When he was ready for Bengal, it had Deep Dasgupta. Being a contemporary of Mahendra Singh Dhoni kept him out of India contention for many years. He didn’t mind filling in when Captain Cool nursed an injury or took breaks. But Saha has been the regular ’keeper since Dhoni’s retirement (from Tests) in 2014. His attendance in club games and commitment to his state team — when India plays limited-over games — confirms his diligence.

While Virat Kohli and army prepared for the second ODI against New Zealand in Pune, Saha quietly celebrated his 33rd birthday (on October 24) with his family; exactly a week after Bengal had thumped Chhattisgarh by an innings and 160 runs.

“Happy Birthday, Wriddhiman. When can I have a short chat with you? Do I call around 11 a.m. (considering it was the day after his birthday),” this reporter sent him a message on WhatsApp. “Thank you, shokale katha boli around 8:15 a.m? (let’s talk in the morning),” he replied. A dedicated athlete hardly sleeps.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: How did you spend your birthday?

Answer: It was like any other normal day. But I got to spend time with friends and family as there was no Ranji Trophy match this week.

During this off period, how are you mentally preparing for the South Africa tour early January? It is going to be your first full-fledged international tour, in the playing XI, outside the sub-continent.

It is definitely one of the important tours, but there is still a lot of cricket to be played in India before we head there. Sri Lanka is coming in November and currently, I am trying to play as many games for Bengal in the Ranji Trophy. I want to take it one at a time. I can’t think of South Africa right now. I will be able to concentrate on that tour once I finish my present duties.

But you won’t get much time to adjust to the bounce there...

Yes, but I can’t help it. I have to get used to the conditions once I reach there. Keeping on a ground in Tollygunge and keeping at Johannesburg are two different things. But the continuous cricket throughout the season is going to help me stay tuned to the game. I don’t think it will be difficult to adapt once we start preparations.

What do the coach and captain tell you, before you head for your break?

They tell me to play as much domestic cricket as possible, keeping in mind my body and fitness. It helps when I join the team for Tests. Virat (Kohli) has been supportive throughout. You hardly get rest with the amount of cricket played today.

You’ve been moulded into a Test specialist. If given a chance will you be open to ODI and T20I cricket?

Nobody will say no. Nobody will say that they don’t want to play. Every cricketer tries his best to play as much cricket for his country. I have had the same dream too. But as of now, I have to make the most of the opportunities that I am getting.

What’s your equation with Dhoni?

We have met quite a few times and shared tips and techniques. When we played Australia in Ranchi this year, he had come to watch. We spoke at length. Though we hardly get to meet, it has been good to have him around when we do. We also shared the dressing room for Chennai Super Kings in the IPL if you remember.

Talking about your glovework, how do you anticipate the movement of the ball from behind the stumps?

The jumps and dives are all about instinct. It has been there in me since I started playing the game. It probably got better with time. But I feel there is a lot to be worked and improved upon, which includes my batting. There is no end to improvement. You need to keep trying harder to be the best. But all the catches that I have taken so far have been backed by instinct. You have to judge the direction of the ball once there is an edge. Reflex has been a strong point since younger days, now it helps me time those jumps.

Virat Kohli, the Indian captain, has been very supportive of Saha.   -  AP

 

Which would be your favourite catch till date?

The one that I took off Umesh Yadav to dismiss Steve O’Keefe (Australia) earlier this year remains the best.

Who, among the current ’keepers in the younger lot, can play for India in future?

Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson. Both have been very impressive.

When you made Bengal side, Deep Dasgupta was the regular ’keeper. Do you see the same happening to Sreevats Goswami, when you are around?

Deep da was the first-choice keeper and he kept wickets for the longest time I remember. Ami toh kono khela ee painee (I never got a game). Sreevats, at least, gets to play. If not as a ’keeper, then as a batsman. He played quite a few limited-over matches for Bengal too. I believe I never had that chance because there wasn’t so much cricket happening like now.

You and Shami together in the Bengal side is unbelievable...

It is great that we got a chance to play for Bengal at the same time. The youngsters in the team now have a chance to see how we function during crunch situations. It will do them good. Shami and I also share a great rapport because we are neighbours in Kolkata.

Talking beyond cricket, what happened to your restaurant Puran Dhaka in Kolkata? Why did it shut down? Do you plan to reopen it?

We couldn’t continue with the restaurant because the stakeholders couldn’t devote enough time, which also includes me. There aren’t plans for a relaunch as of now.

How much time do you spend on social media? After all, you met your wife, Debarati, on Orkut.

Those were good days (laughs). I had the time to browse the internet, as I was only playing domestic cricket. These days, I don’t have that luxury.

You two were frequently spotted at malls having coffee those days. Can you still roam around that freely?

Of course, nobody mobs me; hardly three or four people come and ask for autographs if they recognise me and that’s about it. I haven’t faced any trouble.