At 35 years of age, he finally seems to have cemented his place in the Test line-up, with a series of scintillating performances behind the stumps in the recently concluded series against South Africa.
Indian Test wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha is going through something of a late career resurgence. Long tipped as the country’s most gifted gloveman, Saha has seen his fair share of ups and downs on the international circuit, never nailing down the No.1 spot in the wicket-keeping hierarchy.
But at 35 years of age, he finally seems to have cemented his place in the Test line-up, with a series of scintillating performances behind the stumps in the recently concluded series against South Africa.
Saha, however, doesn’t like to dwell on the age question.
“Whenever a player represents his country, he will give his hundred per cent. No matter if he is 40 years, 30 years, it doesn’t really matter. We all are trying to give our best to our country,” Saha said in a telephonic interview with The Sunday Guardian.
Saha’s place in the team once seemed precarious, with youngsters such as Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson hovering around for the slot. But with Pant unable to find consistency, doubts over him have dissipated.
What caught the eye during the South Africa series were his acrobatic, age-defying catches. His formula? Practice.
“Practice is all that matters. You have to be fearless even during your sessions. It’s not that you won’t give your full effort during practice and think that you will do well in matches.”
“If you don’t do that, then at some point there is always a chance of missing that one catch. It’s also about the timing of the dive, how much you stretch your hands to take the ball. You have to anticipate well so that you pouch the ball at the centre of the glove. You have to follow the ball well right from its point of release. You need a combination of all these attributes to do well,” he said.
But such performances also require the confidence of the captain. Virat Kohli famously declared that he was the best wicket-keeper in the world.
And that does make a difference, feels Saha. “If someone shows faith in you, then you automatically get into a positive state of mind. You are not thinking of anything else and become positive in your mindset.”
The one niggling doubt that still remains is of his skills in front of the stumps. For Saha though, it’s never about individual glory.
“I play according to the situation and demands of the team,” he said.
“As a batsman, I will always deliver as per the requirement of the team. I got chance to bat almost at the time of declaration of innings. I will definitely do better next time I get to bat.”
“I play for the team and don’t think of individual’s performance. I have never believed in staying not out at 20 or 40 instead what benefits the team remains paramount for me. I have always played my game this way,” Saha said. And he has been rewarded for this. He will figure in the playing eleven in two Tests against Bangladesh.
“Playing against Bangladesh is a good opportunity for me. We will play with the same spirit that we showed in our series against South Africa,” he said.
On being asked what makes the current Indian team so special, Saha said, “The team that we have right now, we all are free with each other. It’s very easy to approach others players. The team is a bunch of happy players. Batsman celebrates when bowlers take wickets and bowlers enjoy when batsmen do well. This team has performed as a unit in most cases.”
“Previously, one bowler in the unit clocked 140 km/h but now we have all three of them bowling at that speed. That’s definitely an advantage. Plus, we also have two world class spinners,” Saha added.
The gloveman also had a word of advice for young Pant, who is struggling to retain his place in the team. Despite centuries in England and Australia, his wicket-keeping has come into question.
“We do our drills together. We practice together, so it’s natural to talk about our respective games. You have to give time and the ones who do enough practice, spend time to improve their skill-set, they do well.”