October witnessed the impressive comeback story of Wriddhiman Saha back to his familiar spot behind the stumps donning the Indian white with the gloves. Less than two years back, he was down with an injury against the same opponent, South Africa, which was followed by a thumb injury and a shoulder surgery. The back-to-back injuries and prolonged rehabilitation process left Wriddhiman out of vital Test series in England and Australia amid questions of his return especially with his replacement, Rishabh Pant, scoring centuries in the two series. But he did not just manage a comeback, he showed why is the best wicketkeeper in the world at present in the traditional format. And his wife, Romi Mitra, reckons that his positivity and ability to control emotions remained the key factors in his successful return.
A hamstring injury back in January 2018, during India’s tour of South Africa, left him out of the last two Tests. He recovered and came back to play the IPL that year for Sunrisers Hyderabad. But had injured his right thumb towards the fag-end of the tournament. During the course of his two injuries, Wriddhiman had complained about stiffness in his shoulder, and when a third steroid injection failed to recover his injury, Wriddhiman had to undergo a surgery.
“The injury happened at a vital time in his career, and not one, but back-to-back three injuries, all when he was at his peak. We were all worried about his future. And treatment was a big issue in the sense that how would it go about. We heard he had to undergo a shoulder operation. We were all scared, but more about his career. And then there was back-to-back injuries which was for a prolonged time, especially the rehab process. I was immensely depressed for for he had missed two big series. Above all, there is a big difference between injuries at 20s and the same at 30s,” said Romi in an exclusive interview with India TV as she looked back at Wriddhiman’s period of struggle.
“I had then asked him about his plan. He was confident of a comeback and never thought about retirement. And he focused solely on that for the rest of the months. What puts him apart is that he is very disciplined and committed towards the sport and I reckon had it been any other sportsperson at his age the comeback wouldn't be possible. I was eventually relieved when he played for Bengal,” she added.
During his rehabilitation process post-surgery, Wriddhiman spent most of his time at NCA in Bengaluru and would only manage a couple of days off a month to spend time with his family.
Describing the period as the 'Longest Separation', Romi said, "Even when we were in a relationship, such did not happen. He used to come for two to three days a month and then go to his camp in Kolkata to show his progress and would subsequently return on the next. Hence, family-life was hampered during his rehab process. And you cannot take important family decisions over the phone."
However, by the time Wriddhiman was thinking about his return to the game in December, Pant had scored a century each in England and Australia. Experts of the game were full of praise for the youngster's explosive batting while a certain Pant versus Saha comparison was slowly shaping up already. "I figured out that there was no use getting affected by such reports and was more concerned about his rehab process and how long would that take. All I wanted for Wriddhiman was to return to playing conditions," said Romi.
What about Wriddhiman? Did he express regret? "No, not at all. He can control his emotions to a great extent, whether sad or happy. While that does hamper his personal life, it has a positive impact on his professional life," she added.
Finally, Wriddhiman made his first appearance in India A series against West Indies A where he scored back-to-back fifty-plus scores. "After the first match, I had just asked him about his wicketkeeping because it was his comeback game and whether he was feeling comfortable. He replied, "How did I take those catches had I not been comfortable," recalled Romi.
He was subsequently roped in for the West Indies tour but warmed the bench to make way for Pant. But came back in the playing XI for the South Africa series at home. "He never bothers about the selection. He always remains positive and never repents if he misses out. Even for the South Africa series, he didn't think much about it. He feels that is in the hands of the selection committee and his work is only to give his best effort."
The series saw Wriddhiman once again staking his claim to be the best wicketkeeper in the format in present world cricket. Not once but twice did he pluck a spectacular catch with his teammates, especially captain Virat Kohli speaking in awe of his skills.
“He seemed very happy about all the appreciation he received. And the pictures which were circulating on social media sites after India's win showed that he was smiling. That somewhere shows he does not lack emotion at all and is happy to have made a successful return,” Romi concluded.
Wriddhiman is next expected to feature in the Bangladesh Test series at home which is slated to begin from November 14 onwards.