New Delhi: After being dropped from the Indian squad for an upcoming Test match series, wicketkeeper and batsman Wriddhiman Saha has hit out at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), its chief Sourav Ganguly, and the team’s head coach Rahul Dravid, as well as a “journalist”,
37-year-old Saha, who has in the recent past been in and out of the Indian Test squad, did not find his name in the team announced for an upcoming two-Test home series against Sri Lanka, scheduled to begin on 4 March. Three other senior cricketers — Ajinkya Rahane, Ishant Sharma and Cheteshwar Pujara — have also been left out of the squad.
Saha has not played for the Indian one-day team since 2014.
According to reports, Saha has said he was asked to “think about retirement” by India’s head coach, Rahul Dravid, after having been dropped from the series. This was in spite of BCCI chief — and fellow cricketer from West Bengal — Sourav Ganguly having told Saha that he “should not worry” as long as Ganguly was at the helm of the BCCI.
Afterwards, Saha also took to Twitter to share a screenshot of messages he had purportedly received from a journalist. In the screenshot, the ‘journalist’ seems to be issuing a veiled threat to Saha after the latter did not respond to their request for an interview.
“I don’t take insults kindly,” writes the journalist in the messages shared by Saha.
ThePrint reached out to Saha, Ganguly and Dravid for a comment on the issue, but had not received a response when this report was published.
‘Ganguly assured me spot in team as long as he was BCCI chief’
In an interview with The Sunday Express, after being excluded Saturday from the squad for the series against Sri Lanka, Saha said that, after his performance in the first Test against New Zealand in November last year, Ganguly had promised him a spot in the team as long as he was running the BCCI.
“After scoring 61 against New Zealand at Kanpur, Dadi (Ganguly) congratulated me over WhatsApp and mentioned, ‘As long as I’m here (helming the BCCI), you would be in the team’. Such a message from the BCCI president really boosted my confidence. What I’m struggling to understand is how things have changed so fast,” Saha told the paper in an interview after the team was announced.
In another interview with Sportstar, Saha said that his exclusion had not come as a surprise Saturday as Dravid had already informed him of it at the end of India’s tour of South Africa last month. He added that Dravid had also told him at the time that the team was trying new keepers who could make a permanent place in the playing eleven.
“After the Test against New Zealand, Dada (Ganguly) texted me, congratulating me for my innings, and boosted my confidence. So, when Rahul (Dravid) bhai called me, I thought maybe he wanted to talk to me about his plans. “But as we started speaking, Rahul bhai said, ‘I don’t know how to tell you this, but for a while, a few selectors and the team management are thinking of trying a new keeper’,” Saha said.
“I asked him whether it is because of my age or fitness, but Rahul bhai told me that it is not just because of age or performance. They were looking at younger talents, and since you are not playing in the eleven, we thought of looking at other talents,” he claimed.
In a report published by PTI, Saha further said that Dravid had asked him to consider retirement.
“The team management had told me that I would not be considered henceforth. I could not tell this so long as I was part of the India team setup. Even head coach Rahul Dravid suggested that I think about taking retirement,” Saha told PTI.
Threatening message from ‘journalist’, ex-cricketers come out in support
Following a press conference by BCCI selector Chetan Sharma Saturday where the Sri Lanka squad was announced, Saha also shared a screenshot on Twitter of messages he’d purportedly received from a “respected journalist”.
“After all of my contributions to Indian cricket..this is what I face from a so called ‘Respected’ journalist!”, said Saha in the tweet.
After all of my contributions to Indian cricket..this is what I face from a so called “Respected” journalist! This is where the journalism has gone. pic.twitter.com/woVyq1sOZX
— Wriddhiman Saha (@Wriddhipops) February 19, 2022
In the messages, the ‘journalist’ is first seen asking Saha for an interview.
“They choose one wicketkeeper. Whoever is the best. You try to choose 11 journalists which is not the best according to me. Choose whoever can help the most,” the ‘journalist’ says in the chat shared by Saha.
After this, Saha’s screenshot shows a “missed call” from the journalist followed by threatening messages for the ostensible “insult” in not being granted an interview.
“You didn’t call. Never again will I interview you. I don’t take insults kindly and I will remember this. This wasn’t something ypu should have done (sic),” said the journalist.
After Saha shared the message, former cricketers including Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh came out in support of him.
“Extremely sad. Such sense of entitlement, neither is he respected nor a journalist, just chamchagiri. With you Wriddhi”, wrote Sehwag on Twitter.
Extremely sad. Such sense of entitlement, neither is he respected nor a journalist, just chamchagiri.
With you Wriddhi. https://t.co/A4z47oFtlD
— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) February 20, 2022
“Wridhi you just name the person so that the cricket community knows who operates like this. Else even the good ones will be put under suspicion,” tweeted former Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh, who was known to be close to Sourav Ganguly during his playing days and has played under the former’s captaincy.
Singh further tagged the BCCI, its president Ganguly, secretary Jay Shah and treasurer Arun Thakur in the tweet, saying that “players should be protected”.
Wridhi you just name the person so that the cricket community knows who operates like this. Else even the good ones will be put under suspicion.. What kind of journalism is this ? @BCCI @Wriddhipops @JayShah @SGanguly99 @ThakurArunS players should be protected https://t.co/sIkqtIHsvt
— Harbhajan Turbanator (@harbhajan_singh) February 20, 2022
‘Can’t say why Saha was dropped’, says selector Chetan Sharma
When asked why Saha was dropped from the squad during a virtual press conference after the team was announced, chairman of selectors Chetan Sharma said that age wasn’t a very important factor. He, however, hinted that Saha’s refusal to play the Ranji may have been a reason.
“Look, age isn’t something we give a lot of credence to. On what grounds Wriddhi has been dropped, we can’t tell you”, said Chetan Sharma, chairman of selectors for the Indian cricket team and former cricketer, while announcing the team for the Sri Lanka series.
“But there comes a time when you start thinking about youngsters when you don’t play for long. Also, I don’t know why Saha is not playing Ranji Trophy. That’s not my jurisdiction and that’s what the state unit must look into,” he added.
Earlier this month, Saha had opted out of Bengal’s 2022 Ranji trophy campaign citing personal reasons, giving rise to speculation that the national selectors had given him an indication about being axed from the Test squad.
However Saha later said that while he’d told the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) that he did not want to play the Ranji, “whatever happened after that” was not under his control. In an interview with CNN-News18 last week, he added, “As long as I am in the team, I cannot tell anything. I did not say anything. Someone else must have told and hence the news.”
(Edited by Rohan Manoj)