Wriddhiman Saha, in the Pune Test, gave a glimpse of why he is touted not just to be India's best, but the best wicketkeeper in the entire world at the moment.
In a span of two days, Saha, who is turning 35 within a couple of weeks, came out with extraordinary wicket-keeping skills and played a crucial role in India's emphatic win over South Africa.
On Saturday, Day 3 of the Pune Test, Saha had taken a spectacular grab to dismiss Theunis de Bruyn. Some people felt that it was a one-off incident. However, he didn't let that catch get prominence in his head and on Sunday, came out with other two stunners.
In the morning session of what was going to be one of historical days in Indian cricket history, the 34-year-old from West Bengal first took a one-handed snaffle down the leg-side to send De Bruyn back in the pavilion and then took a great rebound catch off an inside-edge to terminate Proteas skipper Faf du Plessis.
With those stunning catches, Saha reposed the faith which his skipper Virat Kohli had put on him before the start of the series. "According to me he is the best keeper in the world," Kohli had said before the Vizag Test.
Before the start of the series, Saha had missed a year-and-a-half of Test cricket because of injury. In that time, a young wicketkeeper with a bit of batting genius had been unearthed in the form of Rishabh Pant. Pant averaged 44.35 after his first 11 Tests, with centuries in England and Australia and instantly grabbed the limelight.
However, the 22-year-old still didn't have the finesse when it came to the glove-work. And that's where Saha scored over him. This quality of the right-hander impressed the Indian team management to go with him as the first choice wicketkeeper in the ongoing South Africa series and the results are there to show for.
Amidst all the word-mongering about the X-factor which Pant provides, an interesting stat about Saha's wicketkeeping takes him far ahead not just of the Delhi lad but other contemporary wicketkeepers as well.
Saha completes 96.9 per cent of his catches against seamers, the best conversion rate among the modern-day wicketkeepers.
The closest to him is Sri Lanka's Niroshan Dickwella, who completes 95.5 per cent of catches. Third in the list comes England's Jonny Bairstow (95.2 per cent). Pant occupies the ninth spot, with a success rate of 91.6 per cent.
Moreover, when it comes to keeping wickets against the spinners, that too on turning tracks in the Indian sub-continent, Saha's credentials are there for everybody to see and admire.
Amidst the modern-day dilemma of picking a player with superior glove-work or opting for a person who could statistically provide the X-factor to the team, Saha has once again made his case stronger and the weight longer for the likes of Pant who are still in the process of cementing their place in red-ball cricket.
Following the culmination of Pune Test, Umesh Yadav said that he owed Saha a treat for his catches down the leg-side and that he deserves every bit of the Gujarati dishes he craves for, giving his stupendous display in the ongoing series.
( With inputs from IANS )