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Saha vs Patel: The battle to stay in Dhoni’s shadow

Shamik Chakrabarty

Posted: Nov 17, 2012 at 0311 hrs IST

Kolkata: With both Gujarat and Bengal suffering reverses in their last outings, their game at Eden Gardens is about teams trying to bring their Ranji Trophy campaign back on track. Similar concerns about their individual career will be at the top the minds of rival wicket-keepers — Parthiv Patel and Wriddhiman Saha — when they take field on Saturday. Both Saha and Patel have had a long-running battle to be Team India skipper MS Dhoni’s ‘second’ for a while and this latest head-to-head will add another chapter to this individual battle.

In the past, the selectors have perceived Patel as shorter version specialist while Saha was their man for the Tests. But with Sandeep Patil at the helm of a new panel, the two have a chance to make a fresh impression.

Patel hasn’t been opening for Gujarat this season and is batting at No. 4. Being the captain of the team it was his decision to drop down the order and to lend solidity to the middle order. Regardless of the batting position, the team still revolves around Patel, who started the season with 162 against Madhya Pradesh. The wicket-keeper followed it up with 80 and 56 in his next two innings and has a staggering average of 99.33 after two matches.

With Team India’s wicket-keeping slot not to get vacant in the near future, Patel and Saha need to be mentally strong and stay motivated. “No, the situation doesn’t demoralise me. Rather, it’s a positive thing that Indian cricket has so many good wicket keepers, ready to play for the country. I believe if I work hard and keep on performing, my time will come,” Patel said.

Saha too is game for the challenge. “I take this as a challenge. Domestic cricket helps me learn from my mistakes and become a better cricketer. My job is to perform consistently in domestic cricket. Rest is up to the selectors,” he said.

Grapevine has it that Saha is reluctant to bat up the order as it will add to his workload. The cricketer, however, rubbishes the rumour. “I have been working very hard on my batting and am ready to bat at any position. Batting up will help me build my innings. I informed the team management (about my intention) last year,” he said.

With Bengal searching for a settled opening pair and a reliable middle-order this season, the 28-year-old, with scores of 59, 65, 98 and 57, has often come to his team’s rescue. Saha looked good but at times ran out of partners. “We are considering sending him (Saha) up the order but will decide only tomorrow,” said Bengal coach W V Raman.

Interestinlgy, Patel and Saha give their best when they face each other. Last season, Saha’s 167 not out helped Bengal get a first innings lead and three points against Gujarat despite Patel’s century.

Bengal have three points from two matches, while Gujarat have four. But the hosts have to bury the nightmare of an innings defeat in their last match against Punjab. Gujarat, on the other hand, will be under less pressure and inclusion of a couple of outstation professionals in Venugopal Rao and Rakesh Dhruv gives the side some much needed experience of handling different conditions.

Eden Gardens wicket looks good for batting though there’s a tinge of green on it. Application, however, is needed for a big score.

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