Wriddhiman 2.0: Childhood coach reveals how Saha fought back
- Wriddhiman Saha not just made a comeback after almost 20 months but also silenced his critics with his spectacular show behind the stumps
- Saha was dubbed as 'Superman Saha' by the fans after his exploits in the Pune Test
- The Indian skipper Virat Kohli also termed Saha the 'world’s best wicketkeeper'
It is not easy for a cricketer to make a comeback after a long injury-forced absence from the field. Saha not just made a comeback after almost 20 months but also silenced his critics with his spectacular show behind the three sticks. The 34-year-old was dubbed as 'Superman Saha' by the fans after his exploits in the Pune Test.
Saha last played a Test match before the Test series against South Africa way back in January 2018 against the Proteas itself in Cape Town. Saha picked up a potentially career-threatening shoulder injury, the extent of which was fully diagnosed much later. He aggravated the injury when he fell on his shoulder twice during the IPL last year. When the Indian squad for the tour of England was announced on July 18 2018, there was no mention of Saha's injury. A statement was released three days after the selection meeting.
It took some time for people taking care of him to realise that his injury was not a small one. He was given multiple injections, because the initial assessment was that he doesn't need surgery. But when by July last year there was still no improvement, surgery was the only way forward. He underwent surgery in August 2018.
The wicketkeeper batsman's childhood coach Jayanta Bhowmick spoke to TimesofIndia.com to explain the transformation the wicket-keeper batsman from Bengal went through.
"It was a major injury (shoulder). After being operated on, he (Saha) went for rehab to the NCA. He is a serious player. But at that time he couldn’t move his arms at all. He didn’t compromise with the schedule he was allotted during the rehab and training. I could see the hunger of making a comeback and getting back to the field in him. He had the fire in his belly to wear the Indian jersey again," Bhowmik told Timesofindia.com in an exclusive interview.
"When he (Saha) came to Siliguri (Saha’s home town), he came and met me. We discussed a lot of things. He just said - 'Sir, I want to get back to the field as soon as possible'. He wanted to maintain his fitness. Had he been just a batsman, the comeback would have come a bit earlier. But he is a wicketkeeper batsman. So he had to double his hard work to regain his place in the side,” the coach said.
"He wanted to take his fitness level to a new level. He wanted to get rid of the shoulder injury as if it had never happened,” he said.
Saha, who became a Test regular for India after Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s sudden retirement from Tests in 2014 during India’s tour of Australia, went to the NCA for rehab (post surgery) after spending some time in Siliguri (his hometown) with coach Bhowmick and his family.
"We had a lot of discussions. I knew he will make a comeback. The only thing I told him is to be patient. After recuperating, he went to the NCA and passed the fitness test as well. He was patient and wanted to take it one step at a time. He slowly made his way to the domestic tournaments and analysed his performances. We sat together and discussed the training regime. I didn’t want him to take any pressure. I just told him one thing ‘go slow, you will succeed’," Bhowmick told TimesofIndia.com.
Saha was fit and was raring for a comeback. On the other hand, Rishabh Pant was struggling with his form and that gave an experienced Saha a golden chance to return to the Indian squad once again.
"He (Saha) trained according to the pitches (for the series vs South Africa). He worked a lot on his follow through. He worked on his dive moves as well. Researching and examining tracks before the match, there are very few wicket-keepers who do this. But Wriddhi sat and planned accordingly. He has worked a lot on batsmen’s footwork and the movement of the ball. He would sit on his knees for a long time. He worked a lot on his hand and feet coordination. Where to stand and that too against a particular bowler, he had everything in mind. This is all because of his sincerity. He trained really hard for this. I gave him the theoretical knowledge but he executed all of it practically on the field," the coach explained.
"After listening to Virat's words, I sat back and relaxed. The words were the result of Wriddhi's hard work. If Virat says Wriddhi is the best, that means he is the best in the world for sure. Wriddhi will go a long way. He (Saha) called me after the second Test win and asked me "Sir...aapko kaisa laga (Sir...how did you like it?" I said... "Wriddhi, you have always made me proud. Keep shining", a proud coach told TimesofIndia.com.
On being asked about how Pant's dismal form also helped somewhat in Saha returning to the team, Bhowmik said: "Injuries are part and parcel of the game. It can happen to anyone. It happened to big cricketers as well. Wriddhi was out for almost 20 months (from India squad) and it is difficult for a player to make a comeback after that long. But he did it. He has to go a long way. He is maturing with time. If I talk about Rishabh, he is a talented player. He is very young. We need to give him time and more and more opportunities. He is just 22. He is a perfect fit for the limited overs formats. You mature with time and Rishabh has a lot of time to groom himself. I am sure he will do well".
"Wriddhi is a wicketkeeper batsman and Rishabh is a batsman wicket-keeper. This is the main difference between the two players. Wicketkeeping is a thankless job, but it is the toughest one in cricket. If you misfield or drop a catch, people will point that out immediately. I am sure Wriddhi will play for a long time for India, subject to his performances," Bhowmick signed off.