New Delhi: Having been away from competitive cricket since May last year, Wriddhiman Saha - who had replaced MS Dhoni behind the stumps in Test cricket - is set to return to action for Bengal in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy beginning February 21.
“It definitely feels great to back in the mix after an injury layoff. Firstly for a sportsperson, there is nothing like the feeling of returning to the game and I don’t feel like I’ve been away for too long, rather just a couple of weeks or so, like a short break,” Saha told CricketNext.
“Right now my focus is solely on helping Bengal do well in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.”
Saha suffered a shoulder injury while playing for Sunrisers Hyderabad in a match against Kolkata Knight Riders at the Eden Gardens last year.
His injury opened the door for young Rishabh Pant to make his mark in the Test team and the southpaw has not disappointed thus far, leaving Saha’s place in the team in some doubt.
Regardless, Saha was all praise for him and believes Pant is a great talent as he played down any talk of competition or rivalry in terms of making the cut.
“Rishabh got his chance when I was out and just like anyone would look to grab their chance with both hands he did the same," said Saha.
“I don’t look at him as my competition, in fact when he came to the NCA we spent a lot of time together which was nice.
“We hardly spoke about performances and selection."
When quizzed about how he plans to find his way back into the Indian team, a confident Saha said he would rather leave it to the selectors to decide as to when he should be drafted back in.
“My job is to play to the best of my ability and ensure I contribute to the needs of my team at all times.
“I feel the selection matters are not in my hand. So the main aim is to do well and then let things take its own course.”
The wicket-keeper batsman, who played only one Test in the last year in South Africa before being sidelined due to injury, said he was mentally prepared for the duration of the forced break.
“I am confident about the return after such a long time, but yes if there is any disappointment that is about the good series (India’s 2-1 series win against Australia) that I could not be part of with the team during this time."
“There’s not much one can do about that either since injuries are not something one can control.”
The 34-year-old - who hails from Siliguri in North Bengal - spent a considerable amount of time at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) with the likes of former India wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra, Vijay Yadav, Abhay Sharma and physio Kamlesh Jain as he worked his way back to full fitness after his shoulder surgery in August in Manchester.
“The stint at the NCA was really helpful. The coaches and the physios worked very closely with me and that helped greatly."
“I spent a lot of time in the nets batting and keeping and at no point did I feel out of touch or rusty even after so many days. It never felt like I was batting after 8 months.”
Bengal last won the title in the 2010-11 season and has been clubbed with Mizoram, Karnataka, Assam, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Odisha in Group D.
Bengal open their campaign against Mizoram in their Group D fixture in Cuttack on February 21.
Bengal squad: Manoj Tiwary (capt), Abhimanyu Easwaran, Wriddhiman Saha, Shreevats Goswami, Vivek Singh, Writtick Chatterjee, Ritwik Roy Chowdhury, Shahbaz Ahamad, Pradipta Pramanik, Kanishk Seth, Ashok Dinda, Sayan Ghosh, Ishan Porel, Prayas Ray Barman, Ayan Bhattacharjee.