For Wriddhiman Saha, momentum is a wonderful word now. In the middle of a good run as India Test wicket-keeper who is also a handy bat, he is also part of a Kings XI Punjab team that ended up last in IPL 2016, but is one win away from notching up a hattrick in the 10th edition. (IPL SCHEDULE | RESULTS)
That could come against two-time champions Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) on Thursday at the Eden Gardens, a venue Saha also calls home.
“In Dubai (IPL 2014) in the initial three-four matches, we didn’t do much of individual planning and won. That momentum took us to the final. We are trying to retain the initial momentum,” said Saha, 32, speaking after nets on a scorching afternoon on Wednesday.
The 2014 run
He was referring to KXIP winning their first five games in the 2014 edition, part of which was held in the UAE because of general elections.
In the final, Saha made a gallant 115 not out in 55 balls with 10 fours and eight sixes but KXIP’s total of 199 was overhauled by KKR. Maybe that’s why while looking back Saha was being selective. He spoke of having ‘forgotten’ his Man of the Match performance against New Zealand last year. “Past is always past.”
“Every match is a new one for us here. We will have to forget that we won two matches. Yes, at the back of our mind we will have the confidence that comes from winning two games,” said Saha.
Ditto when questions veered to the bonhomie with skipper Glenn Maxwell and other Australians, days after an acrimonious Test series. “We don’t talk about the past. We haven’t spoken about it. The focus is on the IPL,” Saha deadpanned.
Importance of flexibility
KXIP, said Saha, have kept things flexible this term. “There is no batting order,” he said of the two games they have won comfortably, against Rising Pune Supergiant and Royal Challengers Bangalore. There is, however, a lot of aggression, courtesy Maxwell, who made 43 off 22 balls in the win against RCB.
“He and Viru bhai (Virender Sehwag, Head of Cricket Operations) have told us to play freely and that has got us winning in 15-16 overs,” said Saha, whose biggest contribution so far has been a stunning catch of the kind he seems to have made a habit of this term.
No home advantage
With Saha around, questions on the Eden was as inevitable. “I have played a lot here but even at this ground a lot has changed. The wicket, for instance, was pace-friendly against New Zealand. I think it will more or less be the same. This will be the first match of the IPL here and we may have to see the first few overs before deciding our approach.
“Most players in my team have played here thanks to either the IPL or international cricket. I have come here with the mentality of playing an away game, so I prepared for the Eden not backing me,” said Saha.