'My target is to play good cricket in Australia'
Bengal wicketkeeper-batsman Wriddhiman Saha is backing his excellent domestic form to make the cut in the upcoming tour of Australia.
Life has not been fair to Wriddhiman Saha. Born in the same era as India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who is the automatic first choice wicketkeeper, the 27-year-old from Bengal never got enough opportunities to prove his worth at the international level.
However, Saha has no complaints; he feels getting into the Indian squad is a big achievement in itself.
He is in exceptional form in the Ranji Trophy this year, scoring 234 runs in three games, at an average of 117.
And, not surprisingly, he was named the second choice wicketkeeper for the tough four-Test series in Australia, starting later this month.
Saha's first taste of international cricket was rather unpleasant. Making an unexpected Test debut against South Africa in Nagpur last February, following a freak injury to Rohit Sharma during practice on the morning of the match, he was bowled for a duck by Dale Steyn. A gutsy 36 in the second innings couldn't save the match, but earned him a lot of appreciation.
Opportunities, though, have been limited since then, as he got to play just three One-Day Internationals.
Saha spoke with Sonil Dedhia, before leaving for Australia, on his preparations for the tour and what inspires him to continue to push for the wicketkeeper's slot despite Dhoni's presence.
How does it feel to make it to India's Test squad to Australia?
Obviously, it is an honour to make it to the Indian Test squad. I feel elated at being selected.
You had a fantastic run in the domestic season. How are you looking forward to the Australia tour?
Yes, I had a good domestic season and I am looking forward to the tour of Australia. My target is to play good cricket. There are a couple of practice matches, and if given a chance I would like to prove myself for my country and the team.
Image: Wriddhiman Saha
'No pressure at all'
Did you expect the call-up to the Test squad after a good run in the domestic season?
No, I never think like that. I try and perform to my best; I never think about selection. If it has to happen it will happen. I try and stick to a basic plan and everything will follow. I concentrate on my wicketkeeping and batting, and take it match by match.
This is your first tour outside the subcontinent. Are you feeling any pressure?
No, I am not feeling any pressure. I enjoy playing cricket; I am just trying to keep things very simple. I will just concentrate on the task at hand. I am not thinking of trying too many different things at a time.
It's a big tour... is there any special preparation?
I guess my domestic season has helped me improve my wicketkeeping and batting. I am one of the few players going early to Australia so that we can adapt to the conditions.
Once we reach there I will be able to practice with the team in Australian conditions. Once I am adapted to the situation I will try and play accordingly. I am looking forward to it.
Image: Wriddhiman Saha
'Performance will be the key'
Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the captain and the front line wicketkeeper. Are you mentally prepared to sit on the bench for the entire tour?
I never think that I will perform only when I am given a chance. Even if I don't get a chance I will try and contribute as much as I can. Also, it will be a good experience for me, as I would be able to learn a lot of things from my colleagues. All I have to do is keep performing and play more and more matches.
If you are given a choice of playing purely as a batsman, and not wicketkeeper, would you take it up?
Yes, why not? I am ready to go with the team decisions. Even if they select me as a batsman I will be more than happy to grab the opportunity with both my hands.
Image: Wriddhiman Saha
'Dhoni is an inspiration in himself'
How's your interaction with the senior players?
Dhoni is an inspiration in himself. He always keeps a positive atmosphere in the dressing room. Apart from that there are other senior players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman who give a lot of tips and they are always helpful.
Sachin is like a role model. I have always looked up to him and it feels great to share a dressing room with some of the greatest players in the country.
The audience has switched to the Twenty20 format, which has become a huge hit worldwide. Do you have any special preference to a particular format?
I don't have any special preferences for any format of cricket. All of them are totally different and it is unfair to prefer one to the other. At the end of the day, I want to play cricket and would love to concentrate on my game rather than the format I play in.
Image: MS Dhoni