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Wriddhiman Saha: Changing perceptions

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Wriddhiman_Saha_India_cricketBefore the India vs West Indies series got going, many questions were doing the rounds. Is there a dearth of quality Indian wicket keepers? How long before Saha finally steps up with the bat? Are the selectors still adamant with Saha as the wicketkeeping choice? Can KL Rahul don the gloves? Should he?

The Indian captain cleared the air by saying that they were keen to continue with Saha. It's been more than a year since Saha became a regular feature in the Test side. While there was no doubt over his wicket keeping skills at the international level, his failure with the bat has hurt Indian batting prospects in the lower order, considering the already long tail. He was miserable in Australia and the one off Bangladesh Test, having nothing to show for his batting prowess.

Though he showed some intent in the Sri Lanka series with 2 fifties, he faltered at home against South Africa. His career batting average stood at around 22, which was by no means anywhere near enough. While it has to be accepted that he batted at No. 6, 7 and 8 throughout his short career, where he had to bat with tailenders most of the time, it wasn't an easy job.

Saha took his own time to come through all this. He showed his worth in tour of the West Indies. He carried out six dismissals in the first Test, an Indian record for an innings, joining the likes of MS Dhoni and Syed Kirmani. He made a crucial 40 with the bat. The longer he stayed at the crease, the more secure he looked. In the next Test, he stood at the crease for over 100 balls, scoring 47 runs. Those innings, against the backdrop of all the criticism, helped Saha overcome all odds.

He finally showcased his talent in the third Test as India were five down with just 126 runs on the board. With Ashwin at the other end, Saha walked in to the rescue at No.7. What followed was a superlative innings of 104 runs from 227 balls. After a phase of some tough bowling by the Windies where he ducked, survived and batted with caution, he followed it up with some flowing runs to ease the nerves and eventually counter attacked to bring his team on top.

 

His first century in 6 years of international cricket on his 14th Test, the team management stood up to applaud. They knew the valour of Saha's knock. Taking off his helmet, he raised his bat and acknowledged what crowd there was. He seemed a relieved man now that it finally came. He had waited a long time for this and answered all his critics in style. An overseas Test century: a record which eluded even the talismanic former captain Dhoni.

Virat Kohli had shown great belief in Saha's capabilities as he expressed his happiness over Saha's knock at the post match presentation. “Saha is such a nice guy and he never has anything to say about anyone. He never cribs and just concentrates on doing his job. He has a nice attitude and I’m really very happy for him,”

The corollary of Saha's eventful innings is that it may get people to consider him as more of a batsman than just a wicket keeper. Those who deemed him unable to bring any kind of depth to the batting order may now have a glimmer of hope. Saha proved his credentials with the bat. This hundred wasn't just a milestone, it was a proclamation that he could be a noteworthy asset as a batsman as well.

After having successfully overcome his ghosts with the bat, Saha has a long home season approaching. With all the confidence gained, he can just grow from here. The platform has been built and Saha will be yearning to guide India over the mark with both the glove and the bat. The journey from specialist wicketkeeper to wicketkeeper-batsman has been completed.

 

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