"deserved honesty and clarity", and Rahul Dravid's chat about him potentially not being picked in India's Test team going forward came from a "deep respect for Saha and his achievements and contributions to Indian cricket", the head coach has explained.
Moments after India's 3-0 series win over West Indies, Dravid was asked about the selection call and how he felt about a private conversation being played out the way it has, in public.
"I'm not hurt at all," Dravid said. "I have a deep respect for Wriddhiman Saha and his achievements and contributions to Indian cricket. My conversation with him actually came from that place, from my respect for him. He deserved honesty and clarity. I didn't want him to hear about it from the media.
"These are conversations I constantly have with players. I'm not hurt about it at all because I don't expect players to always like all the messages or agree with everything I have to say about them. That's not how it works. When you have difficult conversations with people - sometimes you have to have them with players - you don't always expect them to agree with you or like you, but that doesn't mean you brush it under the carpet and don't have the conversations."
Dravid elaborated on how he and Rohit Sharma
, who has now been elevated to all-format captaincy, have ensured players are constantly being spoken to about their roles, and how those not in the XI are given reasons for their exclusion.
"Before every playing XI is picked, even now, either me or Rohit will speak to the guys not playing and are open to answer questions on why they are not playing and what are the reasons a particular XI might play," Dravid said. "It's natural for players at times to get upset and feel hurt, but I just feel that because of the respect I have for them, my team deserved clarity and honesty, and that's all I was trying to convey."
Saha last played for India in November 2021 against New Zealand
in Kanpur, when the team management rested Pant. The 37-year-old Saha battled neck spasms to make a fighting, unbeaten half-century in the second innings to set up India's declaration. It was in the same Test that KS Bharat
, ten years Saha's junior, stood in admirably as a substitute wicketkeeper and impressed with his neat glovework on a turning surface.
Saha retained his place in India's squad on the tour of South Africa, where he didn't play a single Test, even as the chorus over the inclusion of a younger second wicketkeeper, Bharat, grew louder.
"Before every playing XI is picked, even now, either me or Rohit will speak to the guys not playing and are open to answer questions on why they are not playing and what are the reasons a particular XI might play."
India are scheduled to play five more Tests this year, two of which will be against Sri Lanka next month at home. The third Test, one that was postponed in Manchester last year following a Covid-19 outbreak in the Indian camp with India leading 2-1, will be played in England in July, while two are lined up in Bangladesh later in the year.
The squad for the Sri Lanka series was announced on Saturday
, with Saha among four senior players - Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma the others - to be left out. This was the first time since MS Dhoni's retirement in 2014 that Saha has been left out of India's squad altogether, with the selectors preferring Bharat, a veteran of 79 first-class matches.
"We have only three Tests [five] this year and with Rishabh Pant having established himself as our No. 1-choice wicketkeeper, we were looking to groom a younger wicketkeeper," Dravid explained. "That was it. This doesn't change my feelings or respect for Wriddhi or his contribution.
"Like I said, the easiest thing for me is to not have these conversations or not speak to players about it, but that's not who I am or what I am going to do. I don't expect them to like it, but at some stage I hope they will respect the fact that I was at least able to front up and have these conversations with them."