Sunday, August 13, 2017

Sadanand Vishwanath feels Wriddhiman Saha has filled big boots of Dhoni

India wicketkeeper Wriddhiman Saha stumps Sri Lanka's Dilruwan Perera during the fourth day of the second Test at the Sinhalese Sports Club ground in Colombo on August 6. India went on to win the Test by an innings and 53 runs. Pic/AFP

Wicketkeepers are the last people to be showered with recognition. But India's current gloveman Wriddhiman Saha has enjoyed his share of plaudits for his role in India's fine Test run which he has been part of, save the last three home Tests v England. 

The most talked about young India wicketkeepers in the last 32 years have been Sadanand Vishwanath and Parthiv Patel, who was blooded as a 17-year-old for the Nottingham against England. Seventeen years before that, Vishwanath forced his way into the limelight through his flamboyant work behind the stumps in the 1985 World Championship of Cricket in Australia where Sunil Gavaskar's team emerged triumphant. Vishwanath has been bowled over by Saha. "I first watched him many years ago playing for Bengal in a game at Indore where I was umpiring. I was impressed by his silken touch and his safe pair of hands. His footwork has improved and what stands out now is his keeping to the spinners."

Vishwanath played three Tests for India -- on the 1985-86 tour of Sri Lanka -- and only 14 one-day internationals after the ODI glory in Australia. He faded away, strayed on the wrong side of the road, picked himself up to become an umpire and coped with the ebb and flow of life.

Umpiring career over
He won't umpire again. Not only because he officiated in his last Ranji Trophy game in 2008-09 and last umpired a List A game in 2014-15. It's because he will be 55 this November, thus reaching retirement age. Only those who have umpired in international games can go on till 60.

Vishwanath dreamt of doing Tests and one-day cricket abroad -- at Lord's and at Melbourne where he played the World Championship of Cricket final. "I don't know why I was not recommended, but I took it in my stride. I counted my blessings and carried on umpiring matches across all levels," he says.

He now aspires to be a domestic match referee. "I have sent a letter to the Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), requesting them to recommend my name to the BCCI. I am willing to go through the grind, follow the process. I believe there is not one Test cricketer-match referee in domestic cricket here and that there are vacancies for this role. I am hoping to get a chance," he says.

Back to Saha. Vishy, as he is affectionately called, reckons the India wicketkeeper has filled the big boots of MS Dhoni in Test cricket in fine fashion and is an all-rounder of high quality.

Sadanand Vishwanath

Splendid gloveman
He says, "I'm a Wriddhiman fan. I have been seeing him from his early days in domestic cricket and have umpired in games that featured him. He has got the geometry of wicketkeeping right. He is getting up with the ball and is timing his gathering very well. The long home season surely helped. Nothing like confidence, nothing like continuity, nothing like an extended stretch."

Vishwanath did not have the above aspects going for him in his Test career. But then, he says, "I am trying to continue my love affair with cricket."

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