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Sourav Ganguly's loose comment on highly successful Wriddhiman Saha was not only extremely unfortunate, but has also played a major role behind his regular exclusion from the first 11!

ByKajal Chatterjee

Updated 13 Feb 2022, 5:32 am

Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)
Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)

So Wriddhiman Saha has been required to opt out from Ranji Trophy this upcoming season for "personal reasons" to prove that he also exists! What a farce! Is this the misfortune of World's Best Wicketkeeper in current times or the MOTHER OF ALL SCANDALS in Indian cricket!

Many "sympathisers" of Saha are seen to advise the superb cricketer to play Ranji Trophy so as to "prove his worth" by "padding up and fighting", thereby "compelling the Indian selectors and team management to feature him in the first eleven in Test cricket"! Even after consistently performing excellently behind the stumps in the highest level of the game and commendable performance with the bat with number of match-winning centuries/half centuries; Saha gets marginalised in the dressing room in successive series both home and away for three-four years! Yet, he would be "enthusiastically drafted in the first eleven" if he "performs" in the Ranji Trophy! Yet to hear a more ridiculous joke than this! If his "sympathisers" don't possess guts enough to call spade the spade and protest against the systematic discrimination meted to Saha; then they should try to remain mum instead of offering silly excuses and logic as if the cricketer is himself responsible for his woes!

Another lot of "sympathisers" dare to advise Saha to come excellently with bat also("if his bat produces the runs that the team expects from him, it would be very difficult to overlook him")! Have they witnessed the Kanpur Test of November 2021 against New Zealand where it required an unbeaten innings of 61 by Saha to somehow save the Test for India, that too when he was in acute pain due to stiff neck ! Since Saha is not an overhyped personality like Rohit Sharma/Virat Kohli/Mahendra Singh Dhoni/Sachin Tendulkar; his innings was taken for granted by the cricketing fraternity! But fact is not a reality show or electoral process that it's worth would depend upon the number of popular votes or "likes" garnered! So that stupendous innings of Saha, by fighting against all physical odds when the team was in dire straits , feature right at the very top in the history of Indian cricket with its worth infinite times richer than many "mighty" centuries/double tons of Tendulkar/Kohli against mediocre teams in favourable conditions.

Yet, what was the result of playing such an epic innings! Just a cold-blooded negligence and belittlement of Wriddhiman Saha by a representative of the team management that too when that Kanpur Test was still alive!

Throughout history of Indian cricket, many cricketers have not received their entitled dues and opportunities. The name of Mohinder Amarnath instantly comes to mind who had often found himself dropped despite performing excellently. Many do not get a single call in the national squad despite excelling in domestic cricket for years. But BCCI mandarins, selectors or team management have never stated in public that X or Y would not be considered for selection in the national squad or first eleven. There always exists a facade of "neutrality" with the official stance remaining "Everybody eligible for selection depending upon performance"! But if a cricketer responds to the surname Saha, even that facade gets relegated to oblivion!

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Yes, Vikram Rathour did acknowledge Saha's brilliant innings by fighting against all odds; yet on the same breath scandalously delivered the ultimatum that when Rishabh Pant would be available after completion of his phase of rest, Saha would have to yield place to him as the former is a "mere replacement" of the latter! Oh, what an "impeccable respect" towards the "original first eleven"!

Can the team management hold audacity enough to clarify why Saha was not promptly reinstated to the first eleven after he regained fitness after coming out of injury which he had incurred in early 2018 in South Africa just after the first Test at Cape Town! Not to forget in that very Test, Saha emerged as the first Asian wicketkeeper to take 10 catches in a match. Yet even after such a superlative performance, the No.1 wicketkeeper of India and the contemporary world was not welcomed back to the first eleven with preference accorded to his replacement Pant! So it is clearly proved that all dialogues of "original first eleven" and "replacement" are nothing but farce; rather these terminologies are crudely exploited according to the situation with clever eyes to pamper Pant and discriminate against Saha.

Previously it got hilariously conveyed that preference is being accorded to Pant in the first eleven for his alleged "better batsmanship"! So even after taking unbelievable acrobatic catches in the 5 Tests against South Africa and Bangladesh in home soil (2019); Saha got dropped in the subsequent Test series in New Zealand in early 2020 with Pant being given his spot ! But when Saha had come up with that gallant innings of spine in most trying times in Kanpur; we were made to hear that it is the "misfortune" of Saha to miss the bus as he is playing in the era of "extremely special player" in the form of Pant! Not only is it a heartless joke, nothing can be more ridiculous than this callous statement. It seems Pant is equivalent to legendary Rodney Marsh, Bob Taylor, Adam Gilchrist! But the fact remains that as a wicketkeeper Saha is innumerable times superior to Pant.

And barring the Australia tour of 2018-2019, Pant has hardly fired with bat on a consistent basis in Tests. In contrast Saha has 3 Test centuries under his belt and many half centuries that too most often by coming out to bat so lower down the order from 7th to 9th position! And most importantly most of the crucial Saha innings being either Test winning or saving! Also not to forget that he had hardly got proper batting opportunities to build up an innings as most of the times, the much-demoted Saha in batting line-up, had to throw his bat around to pursue the score of declaration or remain stranded remaining not out with the tail-enders back to the pavilion ! Sanity demands that every comment needs to be based on fact and perspective. That Pant is a better batsman than Saha is nothing but a shrewdly generated myth.

And just notice the crassness through which the team management has transmitted such a negative message to Saha by publicly declaring that he should not expect a berth in the first eleven till Pant remains in the scene! What a snub to his contribution and efficiency! What an insult to the silent worker Saha! Have the team management ever publicly declared that they are not ready to look beyond Kohli-Pujara-Rahane-Rohit or Shami-Ishant-Ashwin-Jadeja! But when the soft target is Saha, a clear signal is given to him that he does not enjoy the confidence of the team management! What a "reward" given to Saha for his "sin" of lifting India's fortunes despite enduring the pain of a stiff neck! And now his "sympathisers" are being seen to exhort Saha to "produce runs" so as to not to get "overlooked"! Are his "sympathisers" aware what they are talking about specially when it has already been decided that Saha's performance would necessarily be overlooked!

Last but not the least --- BCCI President Sourav Ganguly. He is perhaps the most conspired cricketer of the history of the game. Just a single failure in his debut ODI innings ---  expulsion from the national squad for four years! Immediately after return from Zimbabwe by winning the Test series(2-0) and cracking a century at Bulawayo, he was sacked from captaincy! When he was reigning as the highest run scorer of the Indian Test team (between December 2006 to mid 2008) and playing in the best form of his life; he was forced to call it the day even after averaging 54 in his last Test series against Australia due to his "sin" of getting "aged"! However Tendulkar-Dravid-Laxman of same age-group were not only retained, they were even assured that they can retire in their own terms! Today anti-Saha lobby is also citing this very same "age" factor to exterminate the world's best wicketkeeper though they are absolutely silent about others of same age-group!

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Since Ganguly had to pass through this fire of discrimination, it was expected that he would feel the pain of the marginalised ones and render justice to the players as BCCI boss!

But far from preventing the marginalisation of Saha, actually it is none other than Ganguly who had initiated this "Throw Out Saha" game!

Following an extraordinary performance in 2019 Pune Test against South Africa when the international cricket community was showering praise upon Saha; Ganguly as President-elect ridiculously stated that Saha would have to score runs as well in the front of  the wicket if he desires to have a long innings for India and also challenged him to score a century in the forthcoming Ranchi Test as if to "prove his worth"!

Now, wasn't Saha scoring runs in front of the wicket too! Is there even a single specialist batsman in the world who can come up with a half century or century in every Test he plays! If a wicketkeeper coming out to bat between 7th and 9th position and averages more than 30, it is nothing but highly commendable. Yet how could he challenge Saha to score a century in very next Test!  

When all were going gaga over Saha's brilliant skills as a cricketer, it was highly ridiculous on the part of  Sourav to question his credentials with the bat! Why didn't Sourav ask Virat Kohli to regularly come up with three-four wickets per innings or demand at least a half century in every Test from say Ishant Sharma! Why would only Saha have to perform "double duty"! Simultaneously President Sourav also publicly bats for Rishabh Pant resembling the latter's "campaign manager"!

When Saha should have been convincingly assured of his place in the Test eleven for a long time to come just for his specialisation in wicketkeeping skills; Sourav's casual comments not only make Saha always wary of his place in the team, it also indirectly grants a licence to the selectors/team management to sack/exclude him if he doesn't come up with a century or at least half century in every Test  even if he continues to excel behind the stumps! And the team management has taken this very opportunity and pampered Pant as offered to them in a platter by none other than the BCCI President! What  a grave injustice to the peerless Saha! Yes, Sourav Ganguly's loose comment on highly successful Wriddhiman Saha was not only extremely unfortunate, but has also played a major role behind his regular exclusion from the first 11!

If the Indian cricket set-up(specially Sourav, coach Rahul Dravid and Chetan Sharma led selection committee) holds minimum accountability towards the game of cricket with best interest of the national team in heart along with sense of justice and neutrality; they should immediately reinstate the best wicketkeeper of the world to his entitled position i.e., behind the stumps in Test cricket and prevent probable premature retirement of Wriddhiman Saha! According to clean chit to rest of the overhyped failure cricketers, one and only the great and successful Saha cannot be asked to "prove" himself repeatedly resembling much-humiliated Sita's Agnipariksha!

(The views expressed are personal)

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First published:

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Wriddhiman SahaIndian cricket

Kajal Chatterjee

Kajal Chatterjee

Special Contributor, KOLKATA, West Bengal

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