With the ball coming nicely on to the bat, Saha was effortlessly toying with the lines and lengths of Lucknow’s bowlers, especially of Avesh Khan and Mohsin Khan, making 54 out of the hosts’ 78 runs in power-play, bringing up his fifty in 20 balls and setting the base for Gujarat to bat Lucknow out of the game.
For someone who began his IPL career in the middle order and hit a century in an IPL final while coming at number four, Saha has now adapted quietly and quickly to the role of power-play enforcer for Gujarat, where he has a strike-rate of 137.18 in IPL 2023.
"Since childhood, I had the nature of hitting the ball hard even if the circle is up. Yes, when I started in the IPL, I was batting at number six or seven in KKR, CSK. Sometimes chances came of opening the batting or playing in the top-order. Even when I was at Punjab Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad, I played a lot of innings at the top of the order."
"Looking at my cricket, the team management thought that I can play selflessly and fearlessly as well as take the advantage of playing in power-play. There, the thinking of team management and my style of play matched, which has made life easy in terms of contributing for the team and helping in them doing well," he said on his adaptability while going through various roles in IPL in a virtual interaction organised by the franchise.
With Saha doing great in IPL 2023 and averaging 52.16 for Tripura in Ranji Trophy, many felt he would have been the ideal fit as K.L. Rahul’s replacement in India’s World Test Championship final squad.
While that hasn’t happened, Saha, who has 40 Test caps, said he had no such thoughts about it. "Right now, I am playing franchise cricket, which is the IPL. So, I am thinking of my IPL team first. Regarding other things, it’s not in my hand and I don’t even think about it."
With a controlling the controllables mindset and not pondering over the uncontrollable elements, Saha is now eyeing to enjoy whatever roles are assigned to him in whatever is left in his playing career.
"As I am getting older and my cricketing career is almost at its last phase, when I started out playing cricket as an individual, it began out of enjoyment. As of now, that enjoyment continues to be there, be it be at domestic or IPL."
"Another thing is, being able to contribute to the team and enjoying doing my physical activities. I try to continue enjoying doing that. Whether the team picks me or not is a thing which will be seen later, but right now my aim is to give more than 100 per cent of my efforts."
Saha’s re-emergence as a maximiser of power-play began in fag end of IPL 2020, smashing 214 runs and striking at 139.86 with two half-centuries. Though Gujarat picked him late in the mega auction, Saha waited for his turn to open and hasn’t looked back since then. He reckons having a relaxed environment in the Gujarat set-up is bringing the best out of everyone.
"In my playing experience, the dressing room environment of the Gujarat Titans is one of the best I have ever been in. Because of this, the team bonding and the interactions within the players are great, which helps in delivering results on the field."
"Plus, we can go freely and speak to anyone like Ashish Nehra, Gary Kirsten, like if someone goes to speak to them at 1-2 a.m., they will still talk to you very well. Also, on being called a youngster (in team videos), these small moments of laughter happen in team meetings. The more environment is kept light, the better we are able to deliver on the field."
Apart from being the powerplay enforcer and being a selfless contributor in Gujarat’s success, Saha is also doubling up as a guiding figure to K.S. Bharat, who made his Test debut as a wicketkeeper-batter in this year’s Border-Gavaskar Trophy and in all likelihood, will don the same role for the World Test Championship final at The Oval from June 7-11.
"We have been together in IPL this year only. Before that, we have been together in the Indian team camp, as well as in the India A setup. We discuss a lot of things about batting, keeping, the drills and approach to be taken, as well as in making improvements as a human being."
"I have spoken to Bharat on a lot of things and he’s discussed with me on how his keeping was in last series and what more can be done to enhance it. When we do the drills here, he’s working on his skills step-by-step and he will improve day-by-day in those areas."
"I haven’t played a Test match for India in England, but I did play in India A games there. So, I have that experience as well as of being with the team for two-three tours, when Dhoni bhai and Rishabh (Pant) were playing. I have shared all of my experiences with Bharat. Hopefully, he contributes for the team," he concluded.