Wriddhiman Saha and Rishabh Pant may be jostling for a position in India’s Test Playing XI but the two are surely not at loggerheads with each other, the 34-year-old wicketkeeper batsman clarified on Friday, the eve of the third Test between India and South Africa in Ranchi.
Saha was India’s preferred first-choice wicketkeeper until he injured himself last year and had to spend the next 20 months on the sidelines. While Saha was nursing multiple injuries – including a broken thumb and an injured shoulder – that were caused simultaneously, Pant rose to the occasion, slamming centuries in England and Australia and had many believing he was going to be around for good.
But with Saha recovering and Pant finding himself in the middle of a shaky run, Saha returned to the position he’d never lost out on and took his position behind the stumps in the first two Test against the West Indies, saying being out of the side had no bearing on his relationship with Pant.
“There’s nothing (mentoring) like that. We just discuss normally the way the wicketkeepers discuss. With Sridhar and Pant, we three jointly decide on how to go about our wicketkeeping on a particular type of wicket,” Saha said. “We always observe each other’s wicket-keeping. We work hard in our practice sessions and have a good understanding and co-ordination among ourselves. We always try to point out each other’s mistakes. It’s been going well so far.”
The third Test in Ranchi holds a special place in Saha’s heart. In 2017, when the JSCA stadium hosted its first Test against Australia, Saha struck his maiden century for India. Even though the match ended in a draw, Saha had improved upon his batting average. This time too, India have already sealed the series and Saha would really fancy a longer innings with the bat.
“Whoever plays in the team wants to contribute. As a wicketkeeper, I look to get sometime in the middle and if I get time, I try to build a partnership and score a fifty or so. Everyone tries like that. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not,” he said.
“I have good memory of the last match. I made 117 in the last match. I remember how I approached the innings. I also remember the Steve Smith incident. If you see we drew it last time. We are 2-0 up in the series so this time we will try to make it 3-0 this time.”
Saha stressed on the importance of keeping wickets effectively, especially standing up to the spinner on Indian/sub-continent pitches. In the last game, even against the pacers, Saha proved once again why he’s probably the best in the world when he took an acrobatic catch diving to his left off Umesh Yadav to dismiss Theunis de Bruyn.
“It’s tough everywhere. Wicketkeeping is a thankless job and people think that he should take all the ball since he’s wearing a pair of gloves. It’s not easy like that, especially on a track with uneven bounce and turn. We prepare according to the wicket,” he said.
“I was out for a long time because of injury. I got a chance only after performing in the domestic and India A matches. I always continued the same preparation for batting and wicketkeeping and finally got and opportunity. I’m really happy to have contributed to the team.”