Recognise the batsman in Wriddhiman Saha
Wriddhiman Saha walked back a satisfied but tired man, having made 170 in more than six hours in East Zone's first innings. Before that, he had kept wicket safely and unobtrusively for Central Zone's first innings, which had lasted for barely four hours. The handful of spectators at the Holkar Stadium, who had implored Saha to raise his bat in their direction when he reached his century, called out to him again. Saha went to them and patiently signed autographs and posed for photographs with a few fans. There was something in his demeanour that led a veteran journalist to remark that in all his decades of covering cricket he had never seen a more humble player.
Saha's humility does not seem to be put on. It is part of his nature. He is rated by many as the finest wicketkeeper in the country at the moment. He goes about his job with the look of an accountant passing journal entries. Without a needless show of emotion. He is known to be a batsman capable of fighting in adversity, a quality he displayed during the first innings of the recent Adelaide Test. He did it with the look of a man who knew he was in for a tough examination but was going to face it without fretting.
Saha is not known - or at least he wasn't until today - to be an aggressive batsman with a range of strokes. He showed he was, with the look of a man who saw aggression as part of his job description for the day, and went to carry out his duties. With humility.
Saha's batting looks as safe as his keeping. That he is technically sound was demonstrated in Australia. Today, he hammered 26 boundaries against a decent attack without a trace of ostentation. His drives were effective but not fierce. His pulls were powerful but not violent. His clips were executed with balance but without flourish. Even when he lofted the fast bowlers a couple of times just over mid-off, the strokes were not mis-timed. And all were safe.
After stumps, Saha spoke about his innings. "The ball was moving around in the morning," he said. "We knew the first session would be crucial. We decided to target only the loose deliveries and keep out the good ones.
"The wicket eased out after lunch, and we came out with a positive mindset to look for runs. Their spinners were not getting much help from the pitch."
This 170 came after Saha made 124 in the semi-final against North Zone in Delhi the previous week. Both centuries were scored after East Zone had lost three wickets for not much in the first innings.
Saha is an excellent keeper and a capable batsman, but he lacks glamour. There have been murmurs about his perceived inferior batting ability from the moment he was chosen as the reserve Test wicketkeeper to MS Dhoni. Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel, the others in contention, are flashier than Saha.
The perception seems to be just that though, a perception. A look at the first-class batting averages reveals that Saha averages more than Karthik and Parthiv, and Dhoni as well.
Saha said something today that revealed much about his merits as a batsman. "I go for my strokes only when I am well set, and depending on the match situation," he said. It is a trait the other three cannot be said to possess in the longest format, at least not in the same measure as Saha does.
After consecutive Duleep Trophy hundreds, it is time for the perception to change, and for Saha to be given some respect for his batting ability.
Abhishek Purohit is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo