FOR Wriddhiman Saha, the West Indies tour was about clearing self-doubts, at least batting-wise. He then built on his self-confidence in the home series against New Zealand, playing match-winning knocks at the Eden Gardens and getting his first Man of the Match award in the process. The England cricket team are here and another marquee assignment beckons. In an interview to The Indian Express, the affable keeper-batsman speaks on his batting transformation, his chemistry with Ravichandran Ashwin and other Indian spinners besides his predecessor MS Dhoni’s natural ability to innovate. Excerpts
What do you attribute to the batting transformation?
I didn’t change anything. Absolutely nothing. The preparation process was the same. I never tinkered with my technique. It was just that I had some good days in office. I felt great at the crease. I put away bad deliveries more consistently. In fact, a better conversion rate was the reason for my batting success. Of course, the century against the West Indies (104 at Gros Islet; his maiden Test hundred) was crucial. You can say I carried forward the confidence. A terrific dressing room atmosphere also helped. The dressing-room camaraderie is a reason for our recent winning run.
Did your sessions with Sanjay Bangar help?
He has played an important role. We did some situation simulation during different net sessions. We discussed batting approach at the nets and also during team meetings. The sessions proved to be helpful.
How do you react when people say you are arguably the best keeper in the world?
No reaction at all. I just do my job. I’m not concerned about the rankings.
You share a fine rapport with Ashwin. It must be challenging to keep him on turning pitches.
It’s important to enjoy his bowling and I do enjoy keeping against him. His bowling always puts you on high alert. The way he bowls; almost every delivery can present you with a wicket-taking opportunity. The way he varies his pace, the way he reads batsmen’s minds – it’s fascinating. You can’t help but enjoy the whole sequence.
Do you read Ashwin from the hand or off the pitch?
I prefer to read him off the deck, because (in India) different pitches offer different kind of turn. My net sessions with the spinners come in handy. Still, it gets difficult at times, when he is turning it into the batsman and I’m unsighted. At times you have to rely on your instincts.
Between you and Ashwin, do you exchange signals while executing any special plans?
So far nothing. After so many matches together, I think I can pick from his body language. We have developed a good understanding over the years.
Keeping to Ravindra Jadeja and Amit Mishra has to be different from Ashwin?
Yes. They are different types of bowlers, so the methods have to be different. Jadeja is quicker through the air; he hurries it onto the batsmen. The batsmen get less time to adjust and the reaction time for the keeper is also less. To keep to Jadeja, the take-off point has to be early. Mishra, on the other hand, tests batsmen’s patience. So as a keeper, you have to be patient as well.
You are a pretty conventional wicketkeeper, very copybook, who prefers to gather the ball before going for stumpings. But Dhoni moves his hands forward, gaining an extra second. Have you ever thought about following his method?
Dhoni is a natural. That’s his natural style. I won’t say his method is impossible to follow but it’s not easy. And chances are you might jumble up your own style by trying to copy him. Dhoni has been doing this for so many years. He has mastered the art. It’s his speciality. I prefer to stick to the conventional way of keeping.
So are you not very open to innovations?
Of course I’m open to innovations. But to perfect a new style and execute it in matches, you need a huge amount of practice. It’s not easy if things don’t come to you naturally.
Does this England team looks a little lightweight compared to the 2012 one?
Yes, on paper they might rely heavily on Alastair Cook, because he has enough experience of playing in India and enjoyed success. They might not have an impact player like Kevin Pietersen this time around. But a lot of things can happen on the field. Some other player might make a big impact. So you never know. It’s going to be a good series.