When Ricky Ponting acknowledges a batting effort, one should definitely sit up and take note. Wriddhiman Saha had nothing to lose against Delhi Capitals, and the fearless approach fetched him 87 off 45 balls that eventually led to Sunrisers Hyderabad’s victory in Dubai on Tuesday.
It is rather strange that Saha got only two games thus far in the Indian Premier League 2020. The last game he played, against Kolkata Knight Riders, was a month ago; he had scored 30 off 31 batting at No. 4. Wait is an important word in Saha’s career. The inaugural IPL brought him under the spotlight but then, he had to wait for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s Test retirement to enter the international arena. The former captain’s long white-ball career kept the Bengal boy out of the limited-overs contention, and meanwhile, youngsters such as Sanju Samson and Rishabh Pant had arrived in the scene.
Even in the IPL, despite 120-odd games, he had been warming the bench until the must-win clash against Delhi. The innings had flashes of the batsman the Indian cricket team didn’t nurture. Saha got tagged as a Test specialist, but it is interesting to note that his strike-rate in the Powerplay (137.50) is better than Chris Gayle (134.97) in the IPL should one compare with the best in the business.
Overall in T20 cricket, Saha has a better strike-rate (133.21) than Kerala wicketkeeper Sanju Samson (128.78), who will fly to Australia for the T20I series in November. The senior pro has the required shots to blow up any bowler in white-ball cricket but needs more game time to polish and execute them better. At 36 with a bunch of youngsters breathing down his neck, a T20I debut is difficult but not impossible.
“We know Saha can be a dangerous player as well. We had a chat about how we have to play against him,” Ponting told reporters at the post match press conference.
David Warner’s 34-ball 66 set the stage, and Saha ensured the momentum was not lost. He hit 12 fours and two sixes against a strong bowling lineup comprising Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Axar Patel and Ravichandran Ashwin. Ponting, the three-time World Cup winner and the head coach of Delhi, feels it was Saha who turned the tide for Sunrisers. “Saha played beautifully. He actually surprised me a little but I know he can be a dangerous player. To come back in after a few games out and play like this it was a super knock, and probably the difference in the game to be honest,” he said.
Saha in T20
Saha never wore the India T20I shirt, but in domestic and franchise cricket, the superman wicketkeeper smashed 17 fifties and two hundreds in 193 games; it is to be noted that the batting position was never constant for the large part of his career. The IPL hundred for Kings XI Punjab against KKR in the 2014 final came at No. 4; unbeaten on 115 off 55 balls with 10 fours and eight sixes, the strike-rate read 209 against Sunil Narine at his peak.
In 2017, the 55-ball 93 at a strike-rate of 169.09 came as an opener.
In local club cricket in Kolkata, Saha had hammered 102 off 20 balls for Mohun Bagan which included six sixes in an over.
Former India wicketkeeper Nayan Mongia had batted for Saha’s inclusion in T20I. “You have Pant but I would like to see Saha play in ODIs as well. You need a regular ‘keeper and he should bat as well. He is a genuine ‘keeper. If K.L. Rahul doesn’t do well, I would prefer Saha in ODIs. Pant is still upcoming and Ishan Kishan has a long way to go,” he had told Sportstar in an interview.
He is a proven batsman living in uncertainty. There is no guarantee if he would be playing the next game as he has also picked up a groin niggle, but this man lives for and by hope.