Statistician’s Journal : Is Wriddhiman Saha as good as Dhoni in Tests?

Dhoni still holds the aces, though Saha looks to improve with time.

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Since the former Indian captain and wicketkeeper Mahendra Singh Dhoni called time on his Test career in the Australian tour in December 2014, there was a lot of buzz around who could fill in the big shoes that the decade-long servant left void behind the stumps? And, Bengal keeper Wriddhiman Saha was the frontrunner then and has since represented the country most of the times in the longest format.

Since that game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground that concluded on 30th December, 2014 with the end of Dhoni-era in Test cricket, India had played a total of 25 matches – with Saha manning the stumps on 21 occasions, while Naman Ojha and Parthiv Patel have had kept wickets in the absence of the former. Here is the statistics of the three.

Player W Saha P Patel N Ojha
Matches played 21 3 1
Runs scored 870 195 56
Average 36.25 65.00 28.00
100s/50s 3/4 0/2 0/0
Catches/Stumpings 41/8 11/2 4/1

 

Apart from Gujarat skipper Parthiv Patel’s impressive run in absence of an injured Saha during the England series late last year, the Kings XI Punjab player has more bragging rights over the keeping gloves than any of his rivals.

In total, Saha has featured in 24 Tests since his debut way back in 2010. Now coming to that point of comparison with Dhoni, a discussion would be fairer if we just look at the initial days in the Test career of the former Indian captain – who played a total of 90 Tests. That means we must take the figures till Dhoni’s 24th match since debut – which would coincidentally be the India versus Australia affair at Sydney in 2008, more famously known as the Monkey-gate Test.

Player Dhoni Saha
Innings batted 39 36
Runs scored 1211 982
Average 35.61 32.73
Strike-rate 68.72 45.84
100s/50s 1/8 3/4

 

In batting, Dhoni seems to be just a little ahead of Saha when it comes to the average. Dhoni, at his early days, was a greater attacking batsman than what Saha is – the Jharkhand lad use to make a rough 23 runs more every 100 balls. However, Papali – as the current keeper is fondly called – showed more grit in playing long innings and have scored three centuries so far – in contrast to Dhoni’s one in the same period. All of Saha’s tons came at different slots (6-8). Dhoni, on the other hand, was more prolific at sixth – with an average of 83 and two fifties and the solitary ton – although five of his fifties came at the traditional seventh slot.

Let us have further dissection to the figures home and away to have a better understanding of the scheme of things.

Player Dhoni Saha
Home Away Home Away
Innings batted 13 26 21 15
Runs scored 399 812 529 453
Average 36.27 35.30 33.06 32.35
100s/50s 0/4 1/4 2/2 1/2

 

Saha’s away exploits in limited opportunities so far came in a superb century in West Indies last year apart from a couple of fifties in the Sri Lankan tour in 2015. On the other hand, Dhoni scored a century in Pakistan and two fifties in the 2007 tour to England that India won.

Player Dhoni Saha
1st inns 2nd inns 1st inns 2nd inns
Innings batted 23 16 21 15
Runs scored 722 489 757 225
Average 34.38 37.61 39.84 20.45
100s/50s 1/5 0/3 3/3 0/1

 

While Saha looks more adept in performing well in the first innings, Dhoni’s figures shine more in the second sojourn. Saha’s only second innings fifty came against New Zealand – on the back of his fifty in the first innings that won him the man-of-the-match. Two of Dhoni’s three fifties in the second innings came overseas – including a fourth innings match-saving saga at the Lord’s. In the first 24 Tests since debut, Dhoni’s fourth innings average was 32 (228 from 8 innings) while for Saha, it looks a miserly 5 (32 from 6 outings).

After all discussions on batting, let us have a look on keeping records.

Player Dhoni Saha
Innings kept 46 44
Catches/Stumpings 57/12 45/8
Byes conceded 157 160

 

Coming to the job behind the stumps, Dhoni has more catches to his name probably because of more overseas matches (in England and South Africa) played. Dhoni took 37 catches from 31 innings away from home, while Saha picked up 18 from 19 innings in the same. Coming to byes conceded, both the players have equal shares. However keeping records being also a testimony of bowling – a low number of dismissals might be attributed to pitches offering less turn and bounce for behind the stumps effects. Similarly, some wayward bowling too produces byes that are definitely beyond the reach of wicketkeeper.

Finally, Dhoni looks ahead of Saha at the moment – but one must remember that the edge is only from a statistical point of view that took in data from two different decades. In reality, it is difficult to compare Dhoni’s counter-attacking 148 at Faisalabad to Saha’s grinding 117 at Ranchi or that of measuring the former’s plucky stump-works with the latter’s flying Superman.

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