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Every Test is a challenge, says Saha

Wicketkeeper-batsman insists his side not taking Sri Lanka lightly despite visiting side not having won a Test in all these years.
Wriddhiman Saha

Ever since taking over the wicketkeeping duties from MS Dhoni in Test cricket, Wriddhiman Saha has been a constant fixture in the Indian whites and has done a stellar job behind the stumps, in the main, and in front of it too.

In the 28 Test matches that he has been a part of, Saha has effected 66 dismissals, including 56 catches and 10 stumpings.

The current Indian Test side boasts of some of the best spinners in the game, with R Ashwin as the frontman, and Ravindra Jadeja second-in-command. The squad for the upcoming Test series against Sri Lanka, starting on November 16 at Kolkata’s Eden Gardens, also has Kuldeep Yadav, and Saha accepted the challenge of keeping to such quality spinners, especially on turning tracks.

“If you can read the bowler out of the hand, then 50% of the job is finished there itself,” he said on Monday (November 13). “The challenge is to hold on to all the balls, whether they turn or not. No matter who the bowler is, be it Ashwin, Jaddu (Jadeja) or Kuldeep, the challenge is to catch every ball that comes your way.

“We have played many matches in Ranji (Trophy), India A and during practice. The more you keep, the better idea you develop. After playing for so many years, you do get an idea what is coming and it does become slightly easier along the way.”

Ashwin was the toughest to keep to, Saha said, because of the variations the off-spinner had. But he felt keeping to the pacers wasn’t much easier.

“Among the spinners, I think keeping to Ashwin is always a challenge, particularly because he has a lot of variations up his sleeve, and he also varies his length a lot,” pointed out Saha. “Also I have always found it tough to keep against Ishant (Sharma) and (Mohammed) Shami because their deliveries wobble after it crosses the wicket. For Umesh (Yadav) and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) as well, the ball wobbles but not that much, as they are mainly swing bowlers.”

With India travelling to Sri Lanka and blanking the home side 3-0 in the Tests, and the fact that the visiting side has never won a Test in India in all these years, the odds are stacked heavily in favour of India. But Saha insisted that his team was not taking this series lightly or as warm-up for the South Africa tour early next year.

“It’s not like the Sri Lanka series is to prepare for South Africa,” he countered. “It’s a stand-alone series. Every Test is a challenge, and we will take it match by match, as a team and as individuals. Once this gets over, we will worry about South Africa and the challenge it brings.”

India might be tempted to field all three spinners, but Saha felt that the time for the final decision was some distance away. “We have three spinners, but how many of them will play will depend on the pitch we get for the game,” he explained. “Whether two or three, or one, or whether pacers can do better, we will see once we see the pitch. And I’m sure Sri Lanka will do the same.

“We do not know how the pitch will behave, and regardless of that our aim will be to go out and win the first Test and hopefully the series as well.”

The series will continue in Nagpur and New Delhi before the teams play three One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals.

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