The gloveman was struck by a bouncer while playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad against Kolkata Knight Riders last month, and faces an estimated recovery period of five to six weeks. He should return for India’s tour of England later in the summer.
Saha was sidelined during India’s tour of South Africa earlier this year, missing the last two Tests with a hamstring niggle.
Dinesh Karthik has been called in as Saha’s replacement for the Afghanistan. The Tamil Nadu keeper has overtaken a few other keepers in the country and is now seen as the top replacement keeper if Saha or MS Dhoni are not available.
Saha’s injury adds to the headache of the Indian management already struggling with the fitness concerns of captain Virat Kohli who has had to cut short his county stint in England due to a back injury.
The match, Afghanistan’s first-ever Test match, begins on June 14 in Bengaluru.
The India skipper was slated to join Surrey in June for his maiden County stint but a neck injury suffered at the closing stages of the IPL has ruined those plans. Kohli was seeking to use the stint in England to acclimatise to the conditions after struggling on the last tour to the country.
The right-hander scored 134 runs in 10 innings during the 2014 tour of England.
According to the West Indies great, Kohli’s mental toughness should be enough to see him through.
“I would have loved to see him play county cricket. I think that was a wise move. I think he was aware of what took place last time. That’s good thinking. But it’s disappointing now that he can’t do that. But I think he is strong enough mentally. And I am backing him to do well,” the Caribbean legend was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
The 66-year-old also expressed his admiration for Kohli’s aggressive captaincy.
“I love aggression. My whole style was aggression. I love Virat for that. I think one of the more important confrontations I have seen was when Virat scored four centuries in Australia against the best bowling attack. That’s the best way to respond man! If the Indian team had taken a leaf out of his book, I believe they could have won the series,” he said.
Widely regarded as one of the best batsmen of all time, Richards also warned England not to see India as poor travelers.
“England would be thinking India haven’t travelled that well. I don’t think that is true. I remember Cheteshwar Pujara playing that marathon knock in Johannesburg. You have guys who can do it. I think it’s a great opportunity. Virat will be looking to amend his last outing in England. And I will back him,” Richards added.
First came the news that captain Virat Kohli was going to give the Test, which will be held in Bengaluru in June 14, a miss to play county cricket in order to prepare for the five-match England series that starts in August.
That decision drew some criticism from the sections of the Indian bard as a few felt that the Indian Test captaincy was being devalued by Kohli’s decision, howsoever well-intentioned it was.
Almost a month with county side Surrey was seen as ideal preparation for Kohli who wanted to erase memories of a horror 2014 tour of England where he averaged 13.4 in five Tests.
But just as he was finishing his IPL duties, news came of Kohli picking up a mysterious neck injury that ruled him out of the county stint and also put his England tour in danger.
Apparently, Kohli is suffering from a herniated disc. However, the BCCI neither confirmed nor denied whether the India captain’s injury was serious or why he was allowed to play in the IPL despite picking up the injury in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s penultimate match on May 17.
According to reports, if Kohli’s injury isn’t handled properly he could end up missing the entire England tour.
Kohli’s back/neck isn’t the only cause for concern. Seam bowler Bhuvneshwar Kumar was forced to skip at least four matches in the IPL due to back injury. He is back in the Sunrisers Hyderabad playing XI but that is no guarantee that he is fully recovered.
IPL has forced many Indian players to push themselves well beyond their limits. Sachin Tendulkar played the 2010 IPL final despite splitting the webbing of his right hand and being barely able to grip the bat.
Dhoni has played the entire ongoing IPL with a severe back issue which has compromised his movement, even though he is batting as freely as ever.
What it means is India’s massive tour of England draws nearer, the back issues of Kohli, Bhuvneshwar and Dhoni should give the management a lot of headache.
Kohli and Bhuvi are especially crucial to India’s chances in English conditions and the secrecy surrounding the exact nature of their injury raises more concerns.
While India have put a lot of emphasis on winning in all formats in England to put the team in the right frame of mind ahead of a tough away season that culminates in the World Cup in England next year, the signs so far have not been positive.
For the record, India play three T20s, three ODIs and five Tests against England staring from July 3.