NEW DELHI, (Reuters) – Any lingering doubt about Wriddhiman Saha’s claim as India’s automatic test wicketkeeter evaporated after the diminutive glovesman’s virtuoso performance in the second test against Sri Lanka.
Yet another glovesman who suffered in the long shadow of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Saha bid his time to stake his claim until the former India captain quit tests in late 2014.
Saha, 32, possesses none of his predecessor’s flamboyance or big-hitting ability with the bat but his dexterity behind the stumps, to go with his determination in front of them, has meant that Dhoni, who now plays only limited-overs cricket, has not really been missed.
The second test against Sri Lanka, which India won by an innings and 53 runs on Sunday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series, was a moot case.
On a minefield of a track at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground, Saha’s keeping masterclass prompted skipper Virat Kohli to term him the best in the business.
“Four byes on that sort of pitch speaks volumes of the kind of ability he has,” Kohli said after India’s comprehensive victory at SSC.
“He’s right up there in world cricket among the very best. He’s the best keeper in this format right now, I’d say.” On a treacherous track where every other delivery misbehaved, Saha was exemplary especially in the second innings when the pitch was at its worst.
Kusal Mendis had raised 191 runs with Dimuth Karunaratne for the second wicket, rekindling Sri Lanka’s faint hopes of a fightback, when he deflected the ball onto his thigh pad and a diving Saha took a stunning catch to dismiss the centurion.
On Sunday, Saha produced another gem of a dismissal, pouching Angelo Mathews’ top-edge to complete a dismissal which ended Sri Lankan resistance.
Like he did throughout the match, Saha never took his eyes off the ball, climbed with it and positioned his gloved hand right behind to take a deceptively easy catch.
It was a ritual Saha, who scored a patient 67 in India’s first innings 622-9 declared, religiously followed despite the rigours of keeping wickets for over 166 overs as Sri Lanka batted back-to-back after India enforced the follow-on.
Whether the ball skidded, spun, kept low or reared up, it invariably landed in Saha’s reliable gloves once it made it past the bat. He was also lightning fast in stumping Dilruwan Perera.
“You saw his keeping today, how agile he is,” Kohli said.
“He can create chances at any stage. He’s very safe behind the stumps and he’s been outstanding.”