It’s a Sunday evening at the P. Sen Memorial Cricket Coaching Centre - located in the Kalighat Club premises - and a bunch of young players are covering the pitch with a giant tarpaulin sheet.
It’s been raining scantily over the last few days, but for these youngsters, it’s become a habit to cover the surface once their practice sessions get over. As they pull the blue tarpaulin sheet from one corner of the ground to another, they are joined by Wriddhiman Saha - the India international.
The groundsmen walk up to offer their services, but Saha decides to help the young cricketers in covering the entire pitch so that even if it rains, the surface would be well protected.
The drill continues for about twenty minutes, with Saha running from one direction to another, guiding the boys to keep the proportion right. “ Arektu taan, arektu (pull it a bit further),” he tells the youngsters.
A few moments later, Saha is seen mending one corner of the tarpaulin sheet to stop leakage. This goes on for another half an hour before it gets dark and the cricketers head to the tent to freshen up and leave for their homes.
While it may be rare to see an Indian cricketer, who has donned the national colours in 40 Test matches and nine ODIs, in such an avatar, it’s nothing new for Saha. Whenever he is in the city, he regularly visits the academy - which he now looks after - and helps out the groundskeeper. “In the mornings, you would find me rolling the pitch and trimming it with a lawnmower,” Saha tells Sportstar with a smile.
“I love doing this. When I started playing cricket in Siliguri, my coaches taught me that it’s important to look after the surface, and throughout my career, I have just done that. This gives me immense joy and happiness,” he says.
-Living with the Reality-
The 38-year-old Saha hasn’t been part of the Indian team since January last year, but he continues to be part of the Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League. And by now, Saha has come to terms with the fact that he has already played his last Test match for India and that he wouldn’t get a chance to make a comeback no matter how well he performs in the domestic tournaments or the IPL.
“When the team management has conveyed to you that you are no longer in their scheme of things, there’s no point thinking that I can make a comeback. I know the reality and I have slowly learned to live with it,” he says.
When his name popped up ahead of the World Test Championship final as the main wicketkeeper a few months back, Saha knew that the selectors would eventually pick someone else. His assessment was spot on as the national selection committee named KS Bharat and Ishan Kishan as the two stumpers, despite Saha’s consistent performance in the Ranji Trophy and the IPL.
And, that’s why when the East Zone squads for the Duleep Trophy and the Deodhar Trophy were picked, Saha informed the selectors not to keep him in the fray.
“These tournaments are an opportunity for youngsters to prove their mettle, and now that I have nothing much to look forward to, I did not want to block the way for a deserving candidate,” Saha says. “Had I agreed to play, maybe I would have been the main wicketkeeper for the East Zone team because of my experience, but then, I have never really thought of all these things in my career. So, I told the selectors that it would be better to pick a youngster in place of me.” That’s Saha for you!
-Ranji Trophy stint with Tripura-
After playing for Bengal for more than a decade, Saha moved to Tripura last season as he was upset with comments by a senior CAB official, who had raised questions over Saha’s commitment after he decided to skip the group stage of the Ranji Trophy due to personal reasons.
Leading the side in the Ranji Trophy, Saha amassed 313 runs in seven outings and the team finished sixth in the Elite Group D with 11 points. This time around, Saha wants the team to learn from its mistake.
“We had a decent run last season, where we had our moments of glory. This time, we need a bit of consistency and I have been in regular touch with all the players and the support staff ahead of this season. I will be travelling to Agartala in a day or two and then get things in place. We have a good side, it’s just that we need to step up and deliver consistently,” Saha says.
While he will continue leading Tripura, Sudip Chatterjee is the other guest player of the team that would be coached by former Rajasthan batter Vineet Saxena.
While Saha agrees that it’s not easy to remain motivated, especially when there’s nothing to look forward to, he wants to continue playing domestic tournaments for at least another season. “The day I feel that my reflexes have gone down, or I am not being able to time a particular shot well, I would hang up my boots,” he says.
“I believe age is just a number and it’s all about how you feel about your game. Even people like Wasim Jaffer have played on for many years, and even I have had a good IPL season, so yeah, I will assess things after the season and then decide on the future course of action.”
-Saha gets ‘tremendous support’ from Gujarat Titans-
In the last edition of the IPL, the Gujarat Titans showed faith in Saha’s seniority and expertise and he didn’t disappoint either. Amassing 371 runs at a strike rate of 129.27, he was one of the leading run-scorers for the franchise.
“I have received tremendous support from the Titans team management and Ashu bhai (Ashish Nehra) and before the season got underway, we had discussions and everyone was given a clarity about their roles and that really helped,” Saha says, hoping that the franchise retains him for the next edition of the tournament.
Despite being away from international cricket, Saha hardly gets time to watch the game on television because of family commitments and his packed schedule at the Kalighat Club. But the stumper believes that going forward both Bharat and Ishan need to work a bit more on their drills to enjoy success in Test cricket.
“Both should focus more on their keeping and spend more time on drills. There’s a huge gap between domestic and international cricket. You have to be alert and ensure that you don’t miss out on any opportunities… they are in the team as a stumper, so that should be the focus and accordingly they should work on improving their game,” Saha asserts.
After playing at the highest level for a decade, as he enters into the sunset phase of his career, Saha is in no mood to give up. In fact, the dedicated servant of the game believes he still has a few miles to go.
- Copenhagen vs Manchester United Highlights, CPH 4-3 MUN, Champions League: Super-sub Roony scores winning goal against 10-men United
- World Cup 2023, ENG vs NED: Stokes comes to the party as England keeps Champions Trophy qualification hopes alive
- Copenhagen vs Manchester United LIVE Streaming Info: UEFA Champions League 2023-24: When and where to watch, Preview and more
- NZ vs SL, World Cup 2023: Can’t control weather, our focus is on cricket, says Williamson
- ENG vs NED: Buttler lauds Stokes’ ‘exceptional’ century as England beats Netherlands in ICC World Cup 2023