Wriddhiman Saha's rare weekend in the spotlight

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Agarkar: Glad Saha, Umesh getting applause for their hard work (3:49)

Ajit Agarkar shares his thoughts on the best bits of action from the fourth day of the Pune Test  (3:49)

15.3 Ashwin to Elgar, no run, on a length and kicks up outside off, Elgar is wary of the extra bounce and lets it go through to Saha

There's only so much detail that a ball-by-ball commentator can include before the next ball is bowled, especially if a spinner is on. There's no time, for instance, to describe how Wriddhiman Saha rose with the bounce, how he pivoted on his right foot to turn himself sideways, and the balletic manner in which he raised his left leg when the ball disappeared noiselessly into his gloves.

15.4 Ashwin to Elgar, no run, back of a length and sliding down leg with the angle from round the stumps

The ball was sliding down leg, yes, but where did it end up? In Saha's gloves, of course, after he had performed a stealthy sidestep to move into the perfect position for the leg-side collection despite being unsighted by the batsman.

This is the wicketkeeper's routine, ball after ball, and it's one of the least-noticed aspects of cricket, unless something goes wrong. That does not happen with Saha, not more than once or twice a season anyway. His team-mates appreciate the understated brilliance of his glovework, but what about spectators, commentators, cricket writers?

Saturday and Sunday were two of the rare days in Saha's career when everyone was talking about him.

Early on Saturday morning, he flew to his right, parallel to the ground like a goalkeeper, to pluck an outside edge from Theunis de Bruyn in front of first slip. On Sunday morning, de Bruyn got a thick inside edge to a hip-high ball slanting down the leg side, thick enough to make him think he might get four runs for it, only for Saha, with a catlike sideways spring, to swallow it up in his left glove.

As de Bruyn walked away with a smile half of disbelief and half of professional admiration, Saha was swarmed by his team-mates. Virat Kohli embraced him so fiercely that he almost held him in a headlock, and Ravindra Jadeja ruffled the top of his head vigorously.

Umesh Yadav was the bowler on both occasions.

"I need to give him a treat because I think those two wickets are Wriddhi bhai's only," he told Star Sports at the end of the match. "When you put the ball outside leg stump you think it'll be a boundary, but if there is a little bit of a chance to convert a catch, we know he will take it."

Saha was centrestage once again when India's next wicket arrived. It's hard enough reacting to an inside-edge when you're standing up to the stumps. To have to suddenly change direction when that inside-edge cannons into the back pad requires reflexes of even greater magnitude.

All that movement, in a fraction of a second, meant that Saha, for once, was snatching at the ball. It rebounded off his gloves, and a fierce juggle ensued - once, twice, three times, all the while falling forward, and then, finally, a diagonal lunge to complete the catch where silly point might have stood.

du Plessis c Saha b Ashwin 5. How little that scorecard entry reveals.

Ashwin had spoken glowingly of Saha in his press conference on Saturday evening, well before he had taken this catch. He highlighted one collection off Jadeja, when Kagiso Rabada had tried to drive him out of the rough. India took a review, believing he might have nicked it, but replays showed the ball missing his edge.

"It's a no-brainer to say that Saha is one of the best going around, and I've hardly seen him miss anything," Ashwin said. "Even from the rough today, for Jaddu, as you saw today, the ball that Rabada [tried to] cover drive. Those are all just indications showing how good a keeper [he is], and what good set of hands he's got. And Saha's obviously got great composure too, and you can't really rule him out with the bat either. He's had some really handy contributions for the team, so he's a great character and a great keeper to have in the side."

To many, it was a surprise to see Saha behind the stumps during this series. Yes, he had been a brilliant keeper and a valuable provider of lower-order runs in the three years following MS Dhoni's retirement. Yes, it was injuries, and not a dip in form, that had forced him to miss a year-and-a-half of Test cricket.

But he was nearly 35, and in his time out India had unearthed a young wicketkeeper with a bit of batting genius about him. Rishabh Pant averaged 44.35 after his first 11 Tests, with centuries in England and Australia. No other Indian keeper had ever scored centuries in either of those countries.

As good as he might have been with the gloves, Saha averaged 30.63 before this series. Was he that much better with the gloves than Pant that India didn't mind losing out on valuable runs?

Well, India didn't think they'd be losing out on anything. They didn't just value Saha's keeping; they knew better than to underestimate the value of his runs.

Pant's 114 at The Oval was a devil-may-care counterattack in a fourth-innings chase that was almost a lost cause. His unbeaten 159 at the SCG set up a declaration at 622 for 7 on the flattest track of the series. These were brilliant displays of Pant's batting gifts, and they came on hugely important tours, but that didn't necessarily make them better innings than some of Saha's best efforts.

In St Lucia in 2016, for instance, Saha made his maiden Test hundred after walking in at 126 for 5. Soon after that, he was Man of the Match for a pair of battling fifties against New Zealand on a seaming Kolkata pitch of inconsistent bounce. In Ranchi a few months later, he walked in when India were 328 for 6 in reply to Australia's 451, with Pat Cummins threatening to run through the lower middle order, and scored 117.

India's team management hadn't forgotten these efforts, or how potent a lower-order combination Saha, Jadeja and Ashwin can be in home conditions. They picked Saha because they trusted his batting. But above all, with the bulk of their bowling likely to come from spinners on pitches with variable amounts of turn and bounce, they wanted the best wicketkeeper they could possibly get their hands on. And Saha, as his captain said before the series, might well be the best in the world.