When India announced their playing XI for the first Test against the Proteas, quite a few eyebrows were raised at the inclusion of Wriddhiman Saha.
It was assumed that he had lost his place to Rishabh Pant who became the first Indian wicket-keeper to score centuries in both England and Australia, while filling in for Saha.
However, Virat Kohli had no doubts in the ability of Saha and declared that he was the best Test keeper in the world at the moment.
The 35-year-old suffered a shoulder injury in 2018 but has forced his way back into the Test team after good performances in the Syed Ali Mushtaq Trophy and in the series against South Africa-A team.
In the first two Tests against the Proteas, the wicket-keeper’s adroit glove work has earned him plaudits from his team-mates and pundits. After the Pune Test, Umesh Yadav graciously attributed two of his wickets to Saha, after the Bengal keeper dove full-length to complete the catches. On both occasions the victim was Theunis de Bruyn, with Saha leaping in front of first slip in the first innings and completing a mirror image of the same grab down the leg-side in the second innings.
“I need to give him a treat because I think those two wickets are Wriddhi bhai’s only,” Umesh Yadav said at the end of the match. “When you put the ball outside leg stump you think it’ll be a boundary, but if there is a little bit of a chance to convert a catch, we know he will take it.”
While standing up to the stumps for the spinners, Saha’s keeping has been immaculate, collecting balls that takes off from a length after pitching on the rough with consummate ease. His quick reflexes were on display when he held on to a sharp chance to dismiss Faf du Plessis when the South African skipper inside-edged a delivery from off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The keeper juggled twice before holding on at the third attempt.
After the match, Ashwin commended Saha’s skill and also reminded everyone of his capabilities with the bat as well.
“It’s a no-brainer to say that Saha is one of the best going around, and I’ve hardly seen him miss anything,” Ashwin said. “Even from the rough today, for Jaddu, as you saw today, the ball that Rabada [tried to] cover drive. Those are all just indications showing how good a keeper [he is], and what a good set of hands he’s got. And Saha’s obviously got great composure too, and you can’t really rule him out with the bat either. He’s had some really handy contributions for the team, so he’s a great character and a great keeper to have in the side.”
Rishabh Pant might get a chance in the third Test at Ranchi considering that it is a dead rubber but he will continue to remain Wriddhiman’s Saha’s backup in the longer format.
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