One of the first Twitter messages in congratulation of Wriddhiman Saha’s unbeaten 55-ball 115 against Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL final came from VVS Laxman. In the message Laxman described Saha as a “very underrated cricketer and excellent team man”. Those who’ve seen him from close quarters would agree that the 29-year-old Bengal boy is all about contributing to the team’s cause if silently.
For many observers, however, Saha’s unassuming nature is mistaken for something else. At a time when MS Dhoni redefined the role of a ‘keeper-batsman in Indian cricket, Saha was always considered old school — a player whose work behind the stumps outshone his batting skills, even though this wasn’t actually the case. This is the reason why Parthiv Patel and Dinesh Karthik were always preferred over him whenever Dhoni opted out of a limited-overs series. Saha never complained. He just stuck to his job and worked harder in the nets.
“We all knew he was capable of this. Actually, playing for the Chennai Super Kings had a negative effect on his game, because he hardly got matches to announce his presence. I haven’t seen a player with better improvisation skills and he proved that this term, playing for Punjab,” Palash Nandy, Saha’s coach at Mohun Bagan Club, said, speaking to The Indian Express.
Saha came with his team tottering at 30 for two after 5.1 overs, took time to settle down and then targeted, of all people, Sunil Narine. Morne Morkel and Umesh Yadav, too, were taken to the cleaners. Saha finished with strike-rates of 194.44 against Narine, 260.00 against Yadav and 300.00 against Morkel.
Saha’s onslaught wasn’t unprecedented. Earlier in the group phase he had won the man of the match award for his 26-ball 54 that helped KXIP chase down Sunrisers Hyderabad’s total of 206 with eight balls to spare. However its indeed hard to believe the player who brought so much aggression to his batting is the same who has twice turned down his state team’s captaincy because of an unwillingness to be in the public eye. “He’s reluctant to lead because he’s shy and introvert and doesn’t like spotlight. But Saha always leads from the front with his cricket,” said Deep Dasgupta, Bengal Ranji team chief selector.
Those humble characteristics however makes him an extremely popular and highly respected member of the Bengal squad. “I’ve been sharing the Bengal dressing-room with him for so long now, but I can’t recall a single incident when I saw him getting angry.
He never gives a pep talk…He barely speaks in team meetings unless he’s asked to. Saha rather provides inspiration with his performance on the field. He has been Bengal’s most consistent cricketer for the last three-four seasons,” says Saha’s Bengal team mate Sourashis Lahiri.
But while all his colleagues admit Saha comes across as rather mild mannered they vouch for the fact that underneath the gentle faced facade is a tough as nails individual.
Saha’s effort couldn’t give Punjab the IPL crown, but he returned from the Chinnaswamy Stadium as a winner.