If Saha is stubborn, we have to give him NoC: CAB president

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Wriddhiman Saha has refused to play for Bengal in the upcoming Ranji Trophy knockouts, the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) has informed via a statement. It is learnt that Saha has also left the Bengal Ranji team WhatsApp group. This all but brings about an acrimonious end to his stellar career for Bengal that started in 2007. Bengal will play their Ranji Trophy quarter final against Jharkhand in Bangalore from June 6.

“The Cricket Association of Bengal wanted Wriddhiman Saha to play for Bengal at this crucial juncture, especially when Bengal would be fighting in the knockout stage in a bid to win the Ranji Trophy after becoming the top-ranked team in the country at the end of the group stage. I had expressed this to Wriddhiman and requested him to reconsider his decision. However, Wriddhiman has now communicated to us that he is not willing to play the Ranji Trophy knockouts,” CAB president Avishek Dalmiya said in a statement.

The 37-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman, who has played 122 first-class matches, has already requested for inter-state NoC from the state association. “What to do? If he is that stubborn, we have to give him. But nobody should try to arm-twist the state association, as it is bigger than any individual,” a top CAB official told The Indian Express.

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A member of the Bengal team coaching staff said: “I won’t comment about Saha’s decision to pull out. But now that the picture is clear, we can plan accordingly.”

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This appears to be the culmination of a controversy that started after Saha had opted out of the Ranji Trophy group stage, on the heels of his exclusion from the Indian Test team for the two-match home series against Sri Lanka in February. CAB joint-secretary Debabrata Das had criticised Saha’s decision and publicly questioned his commitment. The player, on the other hand, took strong exception to the comment from the CAB office-bearer, as he cited the illness of a family member for his unavailability.

Wriddhiman Saha Wriddhiman Saha at Eden Gardens Kolkata on March 31, 2017. (Express photo by Partha Paul.)

After a 22-member Bengal squad was announced for the game against Jharkhand, with Saha included, the latter had a conversation over the phone with Avishek and stuck to his guns that the joint-secretary crossed a line by making the comment.

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He also mentioned the selectors should have a word with him, like they had with Mohammed Shami, before picking the squad. “The CAB president repeatedly told him that the state association disowned the comment. Still, Wriddhiman refused to budge. And the custom is to speak to India players only before the Ranji squad selection. We used to speak to Saha also, when he was in the Indian team” said the official.

Saha wasn’t picked for the one-off Test in England, but he has had a good outing in the IPL for Gujarat Titans, scoring 312 runs from 10 matches.

As for Shami, his availability is subject to the BCCI’s clearance.

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