Updated: February 20, 2022 9:09:58 pm
‘As long as I’m here (helming the BCCI), you would be in the team’, that was the WhatsApp message Wriddhiman Saha said he had received from BCCI president Sourav Ganguly after scoring a game-saving 61 not out in the first Test against New Zealand at Kanpur.
The wicketkeeper-batsman was in serious pain, battling a neck injury, which had restricted his ‘keeping time even, as KS Bharat did the job as a substitute. That was late November. Two-and-a-half months down the line, Saha was out of the Indian Test team. He was surprised at the contradiction that chief selector Chetan Sharma’s press conference on Saturday offered vis-à-vis the one-on-one conversation between the two.
“After scoring 61 against New Zealand at Kanpur, Dadi (Ganguly) congratulated me over WhatsApp and mentioned, ‘As long as I’m here (helming the BCCI), you would be in the team’. Such a message from the BCCI president really boosted my confidence. What I’m struggling to understand is that how things have changed so fast,” Saha told The Sunday Express, hours after the team selection announcement.
The exclusion came as no surprise for the Test veteran, who said that he was informed about the committee’s decision to not pick him by coach Rahul Dravid in South Africa itself. In an interview to Sportstar, Saha said, “After the Test against New Zealand, Dada texted me, congratulating me for my innings and boosted my confidence. So, when Rahul bhai called me, I thought maybe he wanted to talk to me about his plans.”
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“But as we started speaking, Rahul bhai said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but for a while, a few selectors and the team management are thinking of trying a new keeper’. I asked him whether it is because of my age or fitness, but Rahul bhai told me that it is not just because of age or performance. They were looking at younger talents, and since you are not playing in the eleven, we thought of looking at other talents…” Saha claimed.
The Chetan Sharma-led selection committee decided to move on from the 37-year-old, bringing in Bharat as Rishabh Pant’s back-up instead. “What Chetan Sharma said at the press conference today was totally different to what we had conversed. He had called me and asked if I was playing the Ranji Trophy. That was the first week of February and I told him that the Ranji Trophy was still some time away. He said, ‘OK’. Then, he told me that he wanted to convey something, that the selection committee was planning to try a new face, thinking long-term. That I wasn’t playing and was in the team as a second wicketkeeper and the selection committee wanted to try a newcomer and groom him. He told me I wouldn’t be in the team for the Sri Lanka series,” Saha told this paper.
He added: “I asked him (Sharma) if I would be considered for the team’s next Test assignments, in England and beyond? He paused for a second or two before telling me that from now on I wouldn’t be considered. Then he said, if someone was picked, he couldn’t be dropped straight away. He also told me, ‘You should play the Ranji Trophy but the decision is yours’. I asked him if my performance and age were the factors, to which answered in the negative.”
Saha said he had a similar conversation with the Indian team head coach Rahul Dravid at the end of the South Africa tour. “I think these are collective decisions taken by the top brass.”
Saha, though, isn’t quitting cricket. He is not playing the Ranji Trophy at the moment, as he needs to spend time with his family; his wife recovering from dengue. But the veteran ‘keeper-batsman is keeping his options open, should Bengal reach the knockouts.
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