Curious case of Saha’s WTC Final omission baffles many

PTI, May 30, 2023, 7:02 PM IST

Image credit: AP / File

Kolkata: Sidelined wicketkeeper-batter Wriddhiman Saha, who had yet another successful IPL stint with consecutive IPL finalists Gujarat Titans, is back in discussion for his omission from the Indian squad for next week’s World Test Championship Final.

Days after former India coach and captain Anil Kumble said the selectors ”missed a trick” by not selecting Saha for the WTC Final, his fellow IPL commentator Deep Dasgupta echoed the same views and termed the stumper as one of the ”best”.

”He (Saha) is like evergreen man, he is like 38-39, still seems to be one of the best glovesman in the world,” Dasgupta, a former India wicketkeeper turned commentator, told PTI Tuesday.

Continuing his incredible record in the IPL Finals, Saha struck 54 off 39 balls to give GT a brisk start. Saha now has one century and one fifty from three IPL final appearances.

IPL had paved the way for Ajinkya Rahane’s Test comeback after more than a year, but it was not the case for Saha for reasons ”other than performance”, Dasgupta remarked.

”Obviously batting wise, he has done his job for his team, something that has been asked him to, and he has does it really well.” ”This is what he always was, he always did. Another really good year. It has got nothing to do with his performance, there were other things,” Dasgupta said referring to Saha’s fallout with BCCI two years back that has led to his downfall.

Saha, who last played for India in November 2021 against New Zealand for his 40th Test appearance, had fallen out of favour after Rishabh Pant had become the automatic choice for the wicketkeeper’s slot.

The same was communicated to Saha by the team management who had said they wanted to groom a youngster as Pant’s understudy.

But since then, Saha was critical of then BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and also at the beginning, didn’t have charitable things to say about head coach Rahul Dravid either.

Things, however, have changed drastically after Pant’s unfortunate accident at the start of the year that virtually ruled him out for the entire season, but Saha remained out of favour.

Saha should have played Australia series: Dasgupta

Continuing on the ”sensitive issue”, Dasgupta said it made sense when Pant was in the squad but post his unfortunate accident, selectors should have brought back Saha for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy against Australia, the last assignment in their WTC 2021-23 cycle.

”You have to understand when you have Rishabh pant who is your number one choice keeper, you need a younger guy to be your understudy. You can’t have 38-39 years old as an understudy. For somebody who has played so much of cricket and achieved so much, it’s very difficult for someone like him (Saha) to be an understudy.

”I understand the whole situation at that point of time, but obviously the situation changed drastically with whatever has happened to Rishabh unfortunately. Because the situation has changed drastically, it would just make sense if he’s still fit, which he is and the way he’s performing, to get him there, to get him back.

”Obviously what was said and done, maybe could have been avoided…I was keen more on having him in the last Australia series and WTC because it is end of a cycle,” Dasgupta added.

Even as some of his teammates will be UK-bound for the next week’s World Test Championship Final, it will be back to square one for Saha who struck two half centuries, and aggregated 371 runs in IPL 2023.

India begin the next WTC Cycle with a tour to the West Indies and Dasgupta said that would give a perfect opportunity for the selectors to groom a youngster.

It’s a team management’s call: Anshuman Gaekwad 

Former India coach Anshuman Gaekwad feels it all boiled down to what the team management wanted for the marquee WTC Final against Australia slated at the Oval from June 7.

The Rohit Sharma-led Team India has gone with KS Bharat as their first-choice wicketkeeper while picking Ishan Kishan as the replacement option after KL Rahul was ruled out.

”They could have taken him for the WTC Final, but what’s the point just to take him if he does not get an opportunity. It’s about having a faith on the individual, so it’s their call,” Gaekwad said.

Media to be blamed: Childhood coach

While Saha remained inaccessible, his childhood coach Jayanta Bhowmik, who last spoke to his ward before the IPL summit clash, partly blamed the media for bringing disrepute to Saha.

Claiming his omission ”grossly unfair”, the Siliguri-based Bhowmik said: ”There are so many unanswered questions. His fitness is still among the top three Indians, his wicketkeeping is second to none, and he’s a handy batter. Yet he does not get a chance.

Referring to Saha’s outburst in front of media, the coach said: ”He’s always known for his quiet demeanour, you only open your mouth when you’re pushed to the limits and media played a part in this.” ”It’s not going to be any other IPL T20 match. For a WTC Final, you need an extraordinary wicketkeeper, something Indian team will miss sorely,” Bhowmick signed off.

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