The last Test match between India and South Africa in Pune once again bore testimony to the fact that age is just a number if you have the fitness to compete at the top level. At 34, Wriddhiman Saha isnt getting any younger, but the wicket-keeper during the second Test once again showed why he is touted as not just India’s, but the worlds best wicketkeeper at the moment.
In a span of two days, Saha displayed extraordinary wicket-keeping skills and played a crucial role in India’s emphatic series-clinching win over South Africa in the Pune encounter. With that, he also put to rest the debate on who between Rishabh Pant and him is the better keeper.
On the third day, Saha took a spectacular catch to dismiss Theunis de Bruyn off Umesh Yadav. And while some people felt that it was a one-off, he followed that up with two stunners on the fourth day.
In the morning session, the keeper first took a brilliant one-handed catch down the leg-side to send De Bruyn back and then took a great rebound catch off an inside-edge to send back Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis.
Thanks to his showing in the Pune Test, Umesh Yadav said that he owed Saha a treat for his catches down the leg-side.
Newly appointed BCCI President Sourav Ganguly has also heaped praise on Saha, but warned the keeper to also keep an eye on his batting skills.
“I’m extremely happy that he (Saha) does well behind the stumps. But my suggestion to him is that in front of the stumps he should score a lot many runs. His wicket-keeping will never be doubted. (But) if he wants to play 100 Tests, he will have to score a lot more runs. He is our own boy. I wish him the best. Hopefully, in the third Test he will get a hundred,” Ganguly pointed as Pant has time and again won brownie points for his skills with the bat.
In fact, former India stumper Kiran More feels Pant has the keeping as well to find a place in the Test Playing XI.
“He has been playing for India for the last one and a half years. Everybody has their perception, but for me, he is ready. You can go through my record after 11 games, he has a fantastic record,” he said.
“We have worked on his balance and his hand positioning because he has a terrific cricketing mind and picks things up very quickly. We have worked on small finer details. Hand and body positioning is very important and it takes time. With experience you learn.”
But Pant might have to wait for his chance as Saha’s display in the ongoing Test series has seen him repose the faith shown in him by skipper Virat Kohli when he said: “According to me he (Saha) is the best keeper in the world.”
In fact, statistics too side with Saha as he completes 96.9 per cent of his catches against seamers, the best conversion rate among the modern-day wicketkeepers. The closest to him is Sri Lanka’s Niroshan Dickwella, who completes 95.5 per cent of catches. Third in the list comes England’s Jonny Bairstow (95.2 per cent). Pant occupies the ninth spot, with a success rate of 91.6 per cent.
Even when it comes to keeping wickets against the spinners on turning tracks in the Indian sub-continent, Saha’s efficiency behind the wicket is there for all to see.