The first wicketkeeper to captain India in Tests, Mahendra Singh Dhoni played 90 Test matches for India, out of which he was at the team’s helm for 60 matches. His records as a skipper may not have been extraordinary, but as a Test wicketkeeper batsman, Dhoni was outstanding. His unexpected retirement from Tests in December 2014 left the Indian cricket fraternity in bombshell. The biggest question was, who would fill the void Dhoni left behind after being a pillar in Indian Test cricket for nine years? The answer was shortly answered by Bengal wicketkeeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha.
Prior to Dhoni’s nonplus retirement in 2014, Saha had played only three Tests since his debut in 2010 – against the Proteas in 2012, and Australia in 2012 and 2014. But following Dhoni’s withdrawal, he has played 24 international Tests in which he has scored 1020 runs in 32 innings at an average of 35.26. Dhoni had 4272 runs from 139 innings. Saha was also India’s fourth highest run-scorer during the long season at home, and all of that while usually batting at No. 7 or 8.
Talking about Test tons specifically, Dhoni had scored only a solitary century in his first 26 matches, while Saha already has 3 of those.
But more than with the bat, it is with the gloves that the 32-year-old has never let India miss their hero. After Dhoni’s retirement, Saha has taken 46 catches and executed 8 stumpings in 23 matches. Even on Indian pitches where the ball spins beyond control, the Siliguri-born cricketer rarely makes a mistake with the gloves. Dhoni had taken 256 catches and executed 38 stumpings in his nine year Test career.
The former captain’s wicket keeping record is slightly more impressive in his first 26 matches (65 catches, 13 stumpings) because India were largely reliant on spinners back then, whereas Virat Kohli depends more on the quicks.
“Saha is the best wicketkeeper in the country right now and he is doing a great job in Test cricket. He is wonderful behind the stumps and can bat,” Indian captain Virat Kohli heaped rich praises on Saha after his twin fifties at Eden Gardens last year against New Zealand.
In a country where MS Dhoni was the cornerstone of cricket for nearly a decade, a relatively unknown Wriddhiman Saha is showing us the sport beyond him.