Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022

Century against West Indies helped clear self-doubt, says Wriddhiman Saha

Wriddhiman Saha says he felt he was walking a tightrope before making a big score in West Indies.

Wriddhiman Saha, india vs west indies, ind vs wi, west indies vs india, india vs west indies 2016, ind vs wi test series, cricket india, india cricket, cricket news, cricke Wriddhiman Saha says that he was worried that lack of runs might result in a new player getting a look-in in his place in the Test squad. (File Photo)

Wriddhiman Saha usually doesn’t carry a fear of failure, but ahead of the recently concluded Test series in the Caribbean, he had some uncertainties. Saha’s batting had been under the scanner ever since he stepped into the mighty boots of MS Dhoni. He was given the job to replace the irreplaceable — to present himself as a package like his very illustrious predecessor.

Saha’s keeping has always been world-class, but he was struggling to double up as a keeping-allrounder. The century, in the third Test at Gros Islet, his maiden Test ton, came at the right time. It allows him to be now in a more comfortable space.

“I won’t say the West Indies tour was the turning point of my career, but looking back, I must admit it helped clear some self-doubts. I didn’t go there with the apprehension of walking a tightrope. But at the back of my mind I had a feeling that if I don’t get a big score, a new player might come in. It was sort of looking over your shoulder. So, from that point of view, it was a satisfying knock. More so because it contributed to the team’s cause,” Saha said, speaking to The Indian Express.

Saha’s 104 and his 213-run sixth wicket partnership with Ravi Ashwin, in fact, contributed towards a winning cause at Gros Islet. At 126 for 5, it looked anybody’s game. His maiden Test hundred came after 22 innings. He had scored two half-tons in Sri Lanka last year and had a few thirties before that, but converting the starts was always an issue; since his first Test against South Africa at Nagpur in 2010, when he scored 36 in the second innings against a fiery Dale Steyn. Even in the first two Tests in West Indies, he had scores of 40 and 47 respectively, but he failed to go on and make them big.

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The shot he played in the second innings at the Adelaide Oval in 2014 was perhaps the lowest point of his batting.

Chasing 364 for victory, India had been riding on Virat Kohli’s brilliance. The skipper (then stand-in) just needed support at the other end. Saha’s wild punt ensued a late order collapse and the team fell short by 48 runs. It rankled.

“I didn’t mind the criticism. I played a bad shot. I learnt from my mistake. As for not converting the starts, I should blame myself. It was about not playing to 100 per cent of my potential. It was poor shot selection. I wasn’t availing the loose balls properly, putting pressure on myself in the process. Cricket is a one-ball game and you can get a good delivery anytime. Sometimes, under pressure you err on your shot selections. No, I didn’t make any technical adjustments in the third Test. Just that I was availing the loose balls well,” Saha says.

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Ashwin was promoted in the batting order, ahead of Saha, in the West Indies tour. Did it hurt his ego?

“No. It was a team decision, taken on the first morning of the first Test. I was pretty okay with that. In a team sport you always think about the unit and we have an excellent group, where players help each other even off the field. I was never put under pressure by the team management about getting big runs. Both Virat and Anil Kumble told me that a big score was just round the corner. And the whole team was very happy after my hundred. I was happy but it would be foolish to get carried away after a century,” Saha said.

Not resting on laurels

However, though he is not as explosive as Dhoni, Saha knows that he will have to make runs if he is to retain his place in the long run. He also knows that making big scores and contributing when the team is in trouble is vital.

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“As a keeper-batsman, it’s my job to contribute with the bat. I just try to do that. Every match and series present a new challenge. My theory is simple; if I don’t perform consistently I will be dropped. So I won’t say the West Indies tour has helped me cement my place. But this hundred has helped me get into the groove. I will carry forward the confidence.”

Saha enjoyed working with Kumble. “He had been such a great performer for India. He carries the experience. He understands our psyche. Communication sometimes had been an issue with foreign coaches. Kumble is very hands-on. He creates a comfort zone for the players.”

Would he like to compare the new coach with his predecessor Ravi Shastri? “That would be unfair. Shastri was the team director. His role was different from a coach.”

First published on: 02-09-2016 at 04:51:13 am
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