Teams Played For
Board Presidents XI, Kolkata Knight Riders, India, Chennai Super Kings, India Red, India A, Rest of India, Bengal, East Zone, Indians, Punjab Kings, Mohun Bagan, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Gujarat Titans
One of the most technically sound wicket-keepers in world cricket, Wriddhiman Saha remained in the shadows of Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the majority of his career which has been the case with so many wicket keepers.
After Dhoni’s retirement, Saha emerged as the automatic choice in the longest format as he donned the gloves for India with utmost authority. A string of injuries made way for Rishabh Pant to pave his way in the longest format but Saha is still India’s best bet especially in home conditions. He is immensely agile behind the stumps and despite not speaking much from behind the stumps, he does his job in an unfazed manner.
The very first thing which comes to mind while speaking about Wriddhiman Saha is the century that he blasted for Kings XI Punjab in the 2014 Indian Premier League (IPL) final against Kolkata Knight Riders. It was once in a lifetime knock. The Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore was treated to some audacious strokeplay from Saha. He belted a star-studded KKR bowling line-up all around the park during an epic knock of 115 off just 55 deliveries. Despite his heroics, the historic century went in vain as KKR managed to snatch victory owing to a masterclass from Manish Pandey. However, the whole world took notice of the big-hitting abilities of the wicket-keeper batsman Saha.
Just like all other cricketers, Saha rose into prominence from age-group cricket. After excelling in the U-19 and U-22 levels, Saha finally got a chance to represent Bengal in the Ranji Trophy. He replaced the experienced Deep Dasgupta in the Bengal squad in 2007. He scored a magnificent century in his first-class debut against Hyderabad. Despite not doing much with the bat for the rest of the tournament, he impressed the scouts and he was eventually picked by the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) in the inaugural edition of the Indian Premier League. He didn’t do much with the bat but his agile wicket-keeping earned him a lot of plaudits.
With several wicket-keepers including the likes of Parthiv Patel, Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, and Naman Ojha fighting for the second wicket-keeper’s slot, Saha was first called up in the Indian Test squad for the 2010 home series against South Africa. He was just a back-up wicket-keeper but received his maiden Test call-up as a specialist batsman after VVS Laxman and Rohit Sharma were injured. India were blown away by the Proteas. However, Saha impressed in the second innings with a fighting knock of 36 off 101 deliveries.
Till Dhoni was there in the fray, Saha understood his role in the squad and knew that he was always going to be a second choice wicket-keeper. He played a Test in Australia back in 2012 when Dhoni was serving a suspension. Saha also managed to play a few limited-overs matches for India but could never really cement his place owing to modern-day requirements.
Following the retirement of Dhoni, Saha became an automatic choice and his acrobatics behind the stumps earned him praises from all across the globe. He is not like a modern-day batsman but he understands his limitations and has found a way to score some important runs.
Saha became a regular feature in the Test side since the Australian tour of 2014-15 and played a huge role in India’s dominance. In a little span of his career, Saha impressed some of the greatest critics with his arresting skills behind the stumps, and records started to fall under him.
In 2016, he became the third Indian wicketkeeper to take six catches & one stumping, during the first Test against West Indies. On the very tour, he smashed his maiden century at St. Lucia. In 2017, he scored a ton against Bangladesh at Hyderabad and then cracked another one against Australia in tough Ranchi conditions.
Over the years, Saha has enjoyed his journey at the Indian T20 extravaganza quite a bit. He started off his IPL career with the Kolkata Knight Riders but warmed the benches for three seasons before being picked by Chennai Super Kings in 2011. Yet again Dhoni’s presence never really allowed him to cement his place in the XI. He was subsequently picked by the Kings XI Punjab in the 2014 auctions and this was the breakthrough season for Saha in the cash-rich league. He scored 363 runs in the tournament which included a sensational century in the final.
After a string of injuries and a couple of ordinary seasons, Saha was released by Punjab and was bought by Hyderabad in 2019. With Jonny Bairstow being the first-choice wicket-keeper, Saha was seen warming up the benches in the majority of his tenure with Hyderabad. However, in the 2020 season, Saha got limited opportunities in the later-half of the tournament and he didn’t fail to grab those chances, before getting injured. In his four outings, Saha scored 214 runs with a scoreline of 30, 87, 39 & 58*.
If we count the unfortunate talented cricketers in India, then Saha would surely top that list. With his initial days cut down by the MS factor and now the emergence of Rishabh Pant, the Indian wicket-keeper was rested during the home and away tours. In 2020, Saha started in the Playing XI at Adelaide but the collapse of 36 resulted in Saha getting dropped and Pant taking advantage of it.
With Pant, Ishan Kishan, Sanju Samson, and KL Rahul ahead of Saha in the fray, it seems that the road ahead for the best gloveman behind the stumps will be blurry.
(As of March 2021)