According to Jayanta Bhowmik, Wriddhiman Saha’s childhood coach, there should not be different selection criteria for different members of the Indian cricket team. The Bengal cricket coach added he was hurt by the decision of team management and the Senior Selection Committee to drop the veteran wicketkeeper from the test team for the 2-match series against Sri Lanka in March.
Saha, who was arguably one of the best wicketkeepers in Test cricket, has it was communicated by the Indian team management that it is looking beyond him to nurture a young wicketkeeper while Rishabh Pant continues to be the first-choice glove man in Test cricket.
The 37-year-old, who has completed 40 Tests for India over the 12 years, recently revealed he was indirectly told to retire if he wanted to, while adding that head coach Rahul Dravid told him during the tour had been told by South Africa that he should not be surprised if his name is missing from the Test squad for the Test series in Sri Lanka which begins on March 4.
The senior selection committee, headed by Chetan Sharma, chose Pant as the first-choice wicketkeeper and Andhra Pradesh’s KS Bharat as the back-up option in the 18-man squad. Saha also confirmed that Chief Selector Sharma had told him he would be “not considered anymore”.
Speaking to indiatoday.in, Jayanta said he appreciated Dravid’s decision to speak to Saha upfront, but questioned the reasons for his snub from the test site.
Saha last played for India in the 2 Test series against New Zealand last year, hitting a struggling fifty in the opener of the series. However, he was not included in the XI despite traveling to South Africa for the 3 Test series which India lost 2-1.
“Based on what criteria was this decision made? That’s my question. When you select a player, regardless of a team, the criteria are always fitness and performance. If age is not a criterion, then on what basis? Not selected? What is the problem?Even in the squad there are senior cricketers,why is only Wriddhiman Saha dropped from the side?said Jayanta.
Wriddhiman Saha scores an average of 29.41 in 40 tests (AFP Photo)
“SAHA IS STILL AMONG THE FITTEST”
Stressing that Saha is among the fittest cricketers in India’s senior team, Jayanta said his ward takes his performance seriously and is not trying to extend his career in international cricket. The Bengali manager added that Saha still has a few years of cricket left in him.
“Not just a player, every professional has a certain time to retire. Saha also has the right time to retire and he knows it very well. He’s not someone to talk easy, he’s honest and serious with his performance, his results and his fitness. He’s mentally strong even now. He doesn’t want to lose. He knows when to stop,” added Jayanta.
“He’s 37, I understand that. But if his fitness and performance are okay, he can still play 2-3 years.
“Every player, even the great Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara have retired. But there is a time for that. It’s not like he’s trying to add a year or two to his career. He’s an honest person who knows when he’s taking his performance seriously.
“If you look at the Indian team, Saha is always in the top 3 in the fitness tests – Virat Kohli, Ravindra Jadeja and then Wriddhiman Saha.”
“DRAVID IS A GENTLEMAN”
Head coach Rahul Dravid in particular said he wanted to give Saha clarity and honesty by speaking to him during the South Africa tour and that he was “not hurt at all” as the cricketer chose to open their conversation after the squad was announced.
“Rahul Dravid is a gentleman. I heard what he said. It’s fine. But even now the Indian team has players who are in their late 30s. Everyone knows Wriddhiman Saha is still the No. 1 wicketkeeper of the world. Then what’s the problem?” Jayant spoke of Dravid’s comments on Sunday.
“There shouldn’t be different criteria for different people when it comes to selection. That’s unfair. How can this happen?”
“HIS MENTAL STRENGTH IS EXCEPTIONAL”
Saha revealed he has decided to skip the Ranji Trophy to be with his wife who has been doing poorly but Jayanta believes the senior wicketkeeper will get back to work preparing for the Indian Premier League. Saha was bought by Gujarat Titans at the IPL Mega Auction.
“I spoke to Wriddhiman Saha this morning. He is mentally very strong. None of this affects his mental strength. He is exceptional.
“But what pains me is that Saha is someone who loves the sport, has contributed so much to his country and his sport, but was left out without a proper criterion,” Jayanta said.