World Test Championship final: Wriddhiman Saha in race against time to be fit for tour

Wriddhiman Saha dives to complete a spectacular catch to dismiss Australia’s Matthew Wade during India’s home Test series in 2018. Image Credit: AP file

Kolkata: It’s turning out to be a race against time for Wriddhiman Saha, India’s Test wicketkeeper, to be fit and report with the rest of the squad at the month-end for the England tour. Saha and KL Rahul had been named in the jumbo squad last week subject to them being considered ‘‘fit’’ for the demanding three-month tour, which starts with the World Test Championship (WTC) final against New Zealand and is followed by a five-Test series against England.

Saha, who had been a member of Sunrisers Hyderabad in IPL 2021, tested positive for COVID-19 along with a number of other players and support staff across franchises – forcing the Borad of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to hurriedly suspend the league midway on May 4. While the rest of the squad left the hotel in New Delhi, the 37-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman was isolated in his hotel room for a mandatory period of two weeks.

His second test during the quarantine period, the latest one, was found to be positive, raising question marks about him being fit on time to join the squad in Mumbai on May 25 for a hard quarantine. The senior cricketer from Bengal took to Twitter to clarify the situation: ‘‘My quarantine period is still not over. As per the routine check-up, 2 tests were done, out of which 1 was negative and the other came as positive. Otherwise, I am doing much better. Requesting everyone not to spread misleading stories/information without a whole context.’’

Responding to a personal query a few days earlier, Saha replied he was doing ‘‘much better’’ now with no symptoms while medical opinion says that presence of ‘dead cells’ of the virus often takes time for the RT-PCR test to reflect ‘negative.’ He will undergo another round of testing in a few days and if he tests negative, doctors might consider releasing him from quarantine by Monday.

Saha, along with Rishabh Pant, are the two wicketkeepers named in the squad and it’s a no-brainer that the last two Test series against Australia away and England at home had seen the latter raising his performance by several notches – with keeping as well as with the bat.

“When you have a naturally brilliant match-winner of his (Pant) ability playing to the potential there is no greater sight for cricket. I think in the last two months what he has done for India, no one would ever do that in a lifetime. His keeping was outstanding,” Indian team’s head coach Ravi Shastri said after their series win against England. Saha’s strength, on the other hand, had been his impeccable technique behind the stumps and as a handy lower order batsman.

Meanwhile, Rahul, who was named vice-captain during the tour of Australia late last year – had to undergo an emergency appendicitis surgery shortly before the IPL had to be suspended. He had been in prolific form with the bat as the skipper of Punjab Kings and accumulated 331 runs from seven matches to be second in the race for the Orange Cap (highest scorer) till the medical emergency ruled him out – forcing Mayank Agarwal to take charge in their last game.

‘‘Healing…,’’ Rahul tweeted from a scenic surronding on Wednesday.