India head coach Rahul Dravid explained that his conversation with Wriddhiman Saha came out of respect for the contributions and achievements of the wicketkeeper-batter to Indian cricket. He also added that Saha deserved ‘honesty and clarity’ and was not hurt by the contents of the conversation coming into public domain.
On Saturday, Saha along with Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma were excluded from the squad for the Test series against Sri Lanka in March. In the virtual press conference, Sharma had said that the team was looking at the younger options for the Test side.
In some interviews after being left out, Saha had said that Dravid had indicated to him to think about any other decision, with the team management inclined towards a younger back-up keeper to first-choice Rishabh Pant.
Dravid began on a light note in the virtual press conference after India won 3-0 against the West Indies in T20Is.
“Thank you for congratulating us on winning the T20 series. I’m not hurt at all. I have a deep respect for Wriddhiman Saha and his achievements and contributions to Indian cricket. My conversation with him actually came from that place, from my respect for him. He deserved honesty and clarity. I didn’t want him to hear about it from the media.”
Dravid further explained about the importance of having tough conversations with players in the side. “These are conversations I constantly have with players. I’m not hurt about it at all because I don’t expect players to always like all the messages or agree with everything I have to say about them. That’s not how it works.
“When you have difficult conversations with people, sometimes you have to have them with players, you don’t always expect them to agree with you or like you. But that doesn’t mean you brush it under the carpet and don’t have the conversations. I truly believe in having those conversations.”
Dravid then elucidated on how he and skipper Rohit Sharma speak to the players in the eleven and to those players who don’t make it to the eleven. “Before every playing XI is picked, even now, either me or Rohit (Sharma) will speak to the guys not playing and are open to answer questions on why they are not playing and what are the reasons a particular XI might play.
“It’s natural for players at times to get upset and to feel hurt. But I just feel that because of the respect I have for them, my team deserved just clarity and honesty, and that’s all I was trying to convey.”
Saha last played a Test match against New Zealand at Kanpur last year when Pant was rested from the series. Saha battled a neck spasm to make a fighting 61 in the second innings. But in the same Test, substitute keeper KS Bharat won praise for his superlative keeping skills.
Though Saha retained his place for the Tests against South Africa, Bharat was drafted in the Test squad against Sri Lanka. After the Tests against Sri Lanka, India have the postponed fifth Test of 2021 against England at Edgbaston followed by two Tests against Bangladesh later in the year.
“We have only three Tests this year and with Rishabh Pant having established himself as our number one choice wicketkeeper, we were looking to groom a younger wicketkeeper. That was it. This doesn’t change my feelings or respect for Wriddhi (Saha) or his contribution.
“Like I said, the easiest thing for me is to not have these conversations or not speak to players about it, but that’s not who I am or what I am going to do. I don’t expect them to like it, but at some stage I hope they will respect the fact that I was at least able to front up and have these conversations with them.”