By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Wriddhiman Saha’s return to the Indian test side after a long injury-forced absence raised more than a few eyebrows but the wicketkeeper has silenced the doubters with his superlative glovework in the ongoing home series against South Africa.
A wicketkeeper rarely earns kudos purely for his glovework but Saha enjoyed that rare acclaim during the second test against South Africa at Pune.
While India captain Virat Kohli received the man-of-the-match award for his career-best knock of 254, and fast bowler Umesh Yadav and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin picked up six wickets apiece, Saha did not even get a chance to bat.
He had only five dismissals to his name during the test but his impact was hailed by his team mates and drew instant praise from Twitter users, who dubbed him “Superman Saha”.
“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 told reporters after the third day’s play on Saturday.
Saha cemented his place in the longest format of the game in early 2015 after serving as the incumbent to India captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
However, India’s first-choice glovesman suffered a hamstring injury during a Cape Town test in January last year and subsequently found himself out of the side for 18 months after going through shoulder and finger problems.
He was included in India’s test squad for their two-match series against West Indies recently but struggled to find a way to displace young stumper-batsman Rishabh Pant.
After stepping in to fill the gap left by Saha, the 22-year-old Pant scored centuries in England and Australia, prompting calls for India to invest in him given his age and better returns with the bat.
But Saha’s experience and superior glovework while keeping on spin-friendly wickets at home finally worked in his favour as he got the nod ahead of Pant for the three tests against the visiting Proteas.
He lived up to captain Virat Kohli’s billing of “best in the world” with the dismissals of Theunis de Bruyn and South Africa skipper Faf Du Plessis.
He also took a smart catch down the leg side to send back Vernon Philander, leaving Yadav as the obliged bowler.
“I need to give him a treat because I think those two wickets are Wriddhi bhai’s (brother) only,” Yadav told the broadcaster at the end of the match on Sunday.
“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.”
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)