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Interviews

Wriddhiman Saha: 'Being indirectly told to retire'

In an interview to ESPNcricinfo, the 37-year-old wicketkeeper describes the communication and reasons given for dropping him from the India Test side

Sidharth Monga
Sidharth Monga
20-Feb-2022
Wriddhiman Saha during a training session, Ranchi, October 18, 2019

"From now on you will not be considered," Saha on what chief selector Chetan Sharma told him about his international future  •  Associated Press

The upcoming Sri Lanka series is the first time Wriddhiman Saha has been completely left out of the India Test squad since MS Dhoni retired and handed over the wicketkeeping duties to him. Saha and Rishabh Pant have often alternated behind the wicket, with Saha getting the preference on the turning tracks in India, but over the last couple of years, Pant seems to have taken a lead at home too. Here, Saha speaks to ESPNcricinfo about the discussions around his axing.
You seem angry, going by your recent public comments.
I never get angry. Nor am I now. I was told about this selection decision in South Africa, but I didn't tell anyone that till now. Now that the team is out, I have only answered questions that people have asked me.
How was this communicated to you?
After the South Africa series, Rahul bhai [Dravid, the head coach] called me to the room and said, "Wriddhi, I don't know how to say this, but for some time now the selectors and the team management have been wanting to look at a new face (as wicketkeeper). Because you are not our first-choice wicketkeeper, because you haven't been playing for a while, we want to use this time to groom a younger wicketkeeper." I said "okay, no issues".
And he said, "Don't be shocked if you are not selected for the Sri Lanka Tests. In the meantime, if you want to take some other decision, you can do that." So I told him I was not thinking about retirement; not even close to doing so. I told him, "I started playing cricket because I liked playing it, and will continue till I like doing so. If you are not looking at me for the Indian team, that is your decision."
And the selectors?
Ten-twelve days later, I got a call from Chetan Sharma [chairman of selectors]. He asked me if I was playing Ranji Trophy. I said I hadn't decided yet. Then he went on to tell me what Rahul bhai had said. So I asked him if this decision was for just this series or for the upcoming series against Australia and England too. Then he paused for a couple of seconds and said, "From now on, you will not be considered."
Then I asked him why, is it because of my performance and fitness or is it because of my age? He said fitness and performance were not an issue. "We want to look at new faces and if we bring in a new face, we can't drop him without playing him." That's why he said "from now on".
I said, "Okay, this is your decision."
And he said, "You can play Ranji Trophy if you want to. It's your call."
"If they were going to consider me after this series, then why would Rahul bhai say, you can take 'some other' decision if you want?"
Wriddhiman Saha
You haven't been playing the Ranji Trophy.
It has got nothing to do with the selection. Some time ago my wife fell sick with dengue, and she hasn't recovered fully. We have two young kids too. So I have to give my family some time too. I told the Cricket Association of Bengal clearly that I was not playing for personal reasons.
Do you feel you are being nudged to retire?
When the selectors and the coach say they have been thinking about this for a while, it is not an isolated call. It means other officials - president, vice-president, etc - are in the loop too.
The biggest shock was that when I scored 61 against New Zealand in Kanpur despite being injured, Dadi [Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president] texted to congratulate me and said I didn't need to worry about anything till he is there. Naturally, I was shocked at what I was told immediately one series after.
But the board president doesn't get involved in selections.
I don't know all that. I don't complain about selection. If I am selected, I try to deliver. If I am dropped, I don't say why I have not been picked. If I am not picked now, the team must not be needing me, which is why they have decided. I am not going to say anything against it.
Are you satisfied by the reasons and communication?
They said performance or fitness is not an issue. "We just want to look at a new face. You are with the squad, not getting to play, so we will not consider you 'from now on'." So if I play Ranji or not, if I score double-centuries or triple-centuries, "from now on" means out. That means we will not consider you from now on.
If you score a thousand runs in a Ranji season, your fitness will be obvious, then how can they not consider you?
If they are saying fitness and performance are not an issue, what is the issue? Age.
One person indirectly asked me to consider retirement. One said, "From now on you won't be considered." It is clear they won't take me whatever I do. I have been told that Chetan Sharma yesterday said you are not being considered only for these two Tests. That version is different. I have been told "from now on". If they were going to consider me after this series, then why would Rahul bhai say, "You can take some other decision if you want"?
Have you spoken to Ganguly after that?
No. Not after that text.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo