A misleadingly diminutive figure, Wriddhiman Saha from the small town of Silliguri, made his way through the U-19 and U-22 levels and got an opportunity to represent his home state in the Ra…
A misleadingly diminutive figure, Wriddhiman Saha from the small town of Silliguri, made his way through the U-19 and U-22 levels and got an opportunity to represent his home state in the Ranji Trophy, thanks to the player exodus to the Indian Cricket League (ICL). Saha took the place of veteran keeper Deep Dasgupta and debuted in the 2007 season.
Despite scoring a century on debut against Hyderabad, he did not make much of a mark in the rest of the games, but that was enough to catch the eye of those scouting for players for the inaugural Indian Premier League. Drafted into the Kolkata Knight Riders, he impressed onlookers with his neat work behind the stumps and explosive hitting in the death overs.
After staying in the sidelines during the Dhoni revolution, he was called up to the national side in 2010, when he was surprisingly picked as reserve wicket-keeper for the home series against the Proteas. Saha continued to ride his luck as he got a debut as a specialist batsman after injuries to VVS Laxman and Rohit Sharma. Though India were handed out a heavy defeat on a pitch which was seam-friendly, Saha impressed with a dogged knock in the second innings, with an old-fashioned 101-ball 36. The selectors anointed him as the permanent reserve in Test matches and he was part of the 16-member squad which made the flight to the Australia in 2011/12. Saha played another Test against Australia in Adelaide in the absence of Dhoni, and he impressed with his skillful keeping and his ability to battle alien bouncy conditions whilst playing within his limits.
On the domestic front, he continued to be in the selectors’ eye by topping the run-charts of the 2011-12 Vijay Hazare Trophy. He has also been entrusted with the leadership of Bengal in the Ranji Trophy and other domestic competitions from time-to-time and shares the duties with Manoj Tiwary and Laxmi Ratan Shukla.
Despite of mediocre performances at the domestic level in the seasons that followed, Saha was named as a reserve wicket-keeper in the Test squad of the tour to South Africa in December 2013. However, Saha impressed after Dhoni’s retirement from Test cricket in December 2014, more so as a keeper than as a batsman. Impressing with his quick reflexes and acrobatic wicket-keeping skills Saha has now become the regular keeper in Tests. His athleticism behind the stumps against fast-bowlers has not been seen in an Indian keeper in living memory and he has been lauded for that by experts and critics. Despite his limited batting abilities, he has learned to play within his boundaries and has achieved success on that front, proving rather difficult to dismiss in most conditions; the kind of stoic approach at the crease required in the most dire circumstances when the stroke-making stalwarts fail.
IPL through the years
Wriddhiman Saha was picked by his home franchise, the Kolkata Knight Riders, in the inaugural IPL auction. However, he remained in the sidelines for the majority of the three seasons he spent with the Knight Riders, and of course, remained a second choice to MS Dhoni when he was picked by the Chennai Super Kings in 2011 auction – once again, for three seasons. In the 2014 auction, Saha was finally signed by the Kings XI Punjab as a first-choice wicketkeeper-batsman. He turned out to be a keeper, not only impressing with his fantastic wicketkeeping skills, but also with the willow, 362 runs at 32.90 at a strike-rate of 145.28. This included the first-ever hundred in an IPL final, against the Kolkata Knight Riders (115* off 55) in the 2014 season, which came in a losing cause as his ex-franchise lifted its maiden trophy. Saha was released by the Punjab franchise, given his unavailability to injuries and a complete overhaul of their own side (the ‘keeping skills of Rahul and Pooran didn’t do him much good) and he was signed by the Sunrisers Hyderabad for the 2019 IPL and is most likely to make the starting XI as their first-choice ‘keeper and possibly Warner’s opening partner.