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Exclusive: Saha Opens up on Virat, Keeping up With Ashwin & More

The smog controversy during the Delhi Test was blown out of proportion, says Wriddhiman Saha.

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The Sri Lankan batsmen showed great grit to bat out the fifth and final day of the third Test at the Feroz Shah Kotla ground in New Delhi to secure a draw, but the day belonged to the home team, who pocketed their ninth series win on the trot.

During the game, Sri Lankan players took to the field wearing anti-pollution masks, while a few were also seen throwing up on the field. Delhi’s toxic air halted play on Day 2 for around 20 minutes, which was also the first time a match was stopped due to pollution. Play was halted as many as three times during the course of the five-day Test.

However, people on social media seemed miffed with the Lankans, arguing that if nobody from among the 20,000 spectators and the 11 Indian cricketers felt any health issues, how was breathlessness and vomiting restricted only to the visiting players?

Clearing the controversy on the same, India’s wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha told The Quint:

Given the hazardous pollution levels in the Indian capital, it was natural for all of us to feel a tad uncomfortable. However, I don’t think that the frequent match interruptions, or calling off the game, was needed. Our intention was to win the match but perhaps the issue was blown out of proportion. But looking at it from another angle, the Sri Lankans come from a country where the air is much cleaner, so it could have been difficult for them.
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As India prepares for their ODI game against the islanders at the beautiful Dharamsala stadium, Saha is back home and will have to wait until the end of December to resume international cricket.

Asked how he feels about being considered only for the longest format, Saha said:

My duty is to play and the selectors’ duty is to select. I am playing both state and international cricket and ready to play all formats of the game. The rest is for the selectors to decide.

The Test series against Sri Lanka was perhaps a dress rehearsal for India ahead of the all-important tour of South Africa at the end of the year, as was evident from the kind of wicket prepared for the first Test in Kolkata. However, the eventual 1-0 scoreline will most definitely cause some worry to the world’s number 1 Test team, ahead of their series with the world number 2 Test team in the latter’s backyard.

We aren’t making any special preparations for the tour as such. We’ve already played in South Africa once. But, we will discuss the areas that need improvement during planning the that will take place before the tour.
Wriddhiman Saha

For Saha, in particular, the bouncy pitches can cause trouble.

As a wicketkeeper, you tend to adjust to the bounce. It is necessary to change a little bit here and there according to the wicket and the climate conditions. But I never really make complete changes during my preparations, just fine-tune some things here and there.
Wriddhiman Saha
The smog controversy during the Delhi Test was blown out of proportion, says Wriddhiman Saha.
Wriddhiman Saha (left) takes a catch to dismiss England’s Ben Duckett during a Test match.
(Photo: Reuters)

Despite usually batting down the order, Saha has been among the runs throughout the home season. Speaking on his preferred batting position in the Rainbow Nation, Saha, who scored a century on his Ranji debut for Bengal, said:

The batting order is decided with the team (that is selected). It depends on whether you pick four bowlers or five. I play at numbers 6, 7 and 8 accordingly, and am flexible with all positions.

India have picked as many as six fast-bowlers for the South Africa tour, something that Saha believes is the team’s trump card.

The team has a surplus of quicks who perform whenever given a chance. The bench strength is great. This is something we can use to our advantage in South Africa.
Wriddhiman Saha

Batting Skills

The keeper-batsman has often maintained that he wants to be known for his wicketkeeping skills more than the batting skills. However, over the last two years, the right-hander has made quite a few contributions with the bat too. His centuries against West Indies at Gros Islet, Bangladesh in Hyderabad, and Australia at Ranchi are a few innings that stand out.

On being asked about how he honed his batting alongside the huge responsibility of keeping wickets, the Bengal batsman recalled his childhood.

My coach when I was a child, Jayanta Bhowmick, helped me with my batting since an early age. Initially, I was not getting enough opportunities at the international level, but once I became a regular in the Test team, my confidence with the bat grew with each game. The more I will play, the more I will improve. When it comes to specific batting techniques, those can always be learnt at the nets from someone or the other.
Wriddhiman Saha
The smog controversy during the Delhi Test was blown out of proportion, says Wriddhiman Saha.
File photo of Wriddhiman Saha.
(Photo: Reuters)
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Tough Job, This

Wicketkeeping in India can be a tough task, especially in Tests, as usually wickets assist turn and are low on bounce. And thus, it comes as no surprise when Saha says he finds it tough to keep to Ravinchandaran Ashwin, who has many variations that are challenging not only for the one in front of the stumps but also for the one behind it.

Although a wicketkeeper has to always be alert, Ashwin’s bowling requires added alertness. He rates the batsmen and accordingly applies different variations. He doesn’t bowl in the same pattern, which requires me to be extra cautious.
Wriddhiman Saha

Sledging a batsman to distract him while batting has become increasingly common in cricket, and the wicketkeeper, being the nearest player to the batsman, can produce effective results of the verbal aggression. However, Saha doesn’t consider sledging as an important tool to win games.

I personally don’t believe that sledging is important and I don’t remember sledging ever. You see, even MS Dhoni never sledged. But if done correctly, it can produce effective results. While a few batsmen get intimidated, others thrive on it and play even better. Sledging doesn’t work on everyone unless you know each batsman’s reaction.
Wriddhiman Saha

Of late, the yo-yo test has become a cricketer’s biggest enemy. Speaking about it, Saha said that passing the test is not very difficult if you work hard on your fitness daily.

If you consistently work on your fitness, then passing the test is not a big problem. But if you get too busy playing cricket in a long series and don’t get the time for fitness regimes, it becomes a bit of a worry.
Wriddhiman Saha
The smog controversy during the Delhi Test was blown out of proportion, says Wriddhiman Saha.
Wriddhiman Saha successfully appeals for the wicket of New Zealand’s Kane Williamson.
(Photo: Reuters)
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Valuable Inputs

Indian captain Virat Kohli is mostly seen at the slip cordon, a fielding position close to the wicketkeeper. Asked if the proximity between them makes Kohli consult Saha before making any decisions, he said:

It is often mistaken that the captain takes all the important decisions. Not just me, Virat asks everyone for their inputs. We all give solutions and ultimately whatever seems best for the team is applied. This is a standout trait of Virat’s captaincy. His aggression and hunger to win is just amazing. Also, how he backs us during press conferences even when we fail to perform is very motivating.
Wriddhiman Saha
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(Umaima Saeed is a self-confessed introvert who binges on cricket and lets her writing do the talking.)

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