It was Saha’s forty six that actually saved the day for Chennai © AFP
It was Saha’s forty six that actually saved the day for Chennai © AFP

 

By Suneer Chowdhary

 

When Wriddhiman Saha walked out to bat against Kochi Tuskers, Chennai Super Kings had lost three wickets for 60, fast approaching the halfway mark. With Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Albie Morkel and Dwayne Bravo still to bat, one would have thought that one of them would walk out to the crease. Instead, much to the chagrin of the fans, Saha was promoted up the order.

 

The internet was abuzz with the strangeness associated with this decision.

 

Two and a half hours later, with Saha on his way to gleefully accepting the man of the match award, Dhoni’s norm-defying instinct was proved right yet again.

 

To be fair, only a day earlier, the Chennai coach Stephen Fleming had spoken of how the management was impressed with Saha’s work ethic. His good outfielding also seemed to have gone in his favour, but for a player who averages 39 in first-class cricket and 40 in List A games, it is a surprise that such questions are even being asked.

 

One of the reasons could be that Saha’s name has not really been bandied around as frequently as some of the other youngsters. There have been the Manish Pandeys, Cheteshwar Pujaras and even a relative newcomer like Ashok Menaria, who has been spoken about in a respectful breath, but not Saha.

 

Unfortunately, what wouldn’t have helped his cause is the negative connotation associated with his international debut – a Test against South Africa, where the selectors’ folly had led him to be selected to play as a pure batsman. On a day that belonged to Dale Steyn’s reverse swing at high pace, Saha was swept aside for a duck in the first essay before exhibiting considerable grit in his fighting innings of 36 that took 101 balls coming.

 

With Dhoni resting for the series against New Zealand late last year, Saha was catapulted into the side over the other back-up wicket-keepers like Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel. He featured in three games and batted only once (scored four), while doing a neat job with the gloves. Patel had then replaced him in the next couple of games as an opener-keeper.

 

Again, Saha hadn’t fallen off the selectors’ radar. They selected him again, this time for the tour of the West Indies where he will share the wicket-keeping duties with Parthiv. While Patel’s skills with the bat at the top of the innings would help him no doubt, an innings like the one he played today, should hold Saha in a good stead.

 

It was not only that he top-scored for his side, but also the manner in which he paced the innings. With the kind of batsmen waiting in the shed, there could always have been that temptation to hit every ball out of the park – instead, he chose to bide his time till Michael Hussey was at the crease.

 

And then, almost on cue, the strokes began to flow from his bat after he had given himself a couple of overs. The dismissal of Hussey and Dhoni at the other end did not matter too much to him as he kept carving out his boundaries amongst the singles and twos that he got. By the time the stipulated overs were up, he had his best IPL score to his name – a 33-ball 46.

 

And if Parthiv Patel keeps missing the chances like he did today, there could be no stopping Saha from donning the gloves as the second-choice wicket-keeper to Dhoni.

 

(Suneer is a Mumbai-based cricket writer and can be contacted at suneerchowdhary@gmail.com and Tweets here: @suneerchowdhary)