If there’s one thing Wriddhiman Saha knows how to do well, it’s to wait. As a wicketkeeper, that's what he does with every delivery anyway.

Not like he had a choice. If he had appeared on the scene five years earlier than he did, he’d be a regular in the Indian team. Unfortunately, when he made a century on first class debut for Bengal in 2007, Mahendra Singh Dhoni had just taken a young Indian team to the World Twenty20 title.

The rest, as they say, is history. With Dhoni growing in stature, there was never going to be an opening. All Saha (Wriddhi to his Bengal team-mates) could do was wait.

A long vigil

It must have been an incredibly frustrating wait for the 31-year-old. Season after season ticked by and Wriddhi could do no wrong. He went on scoring heavily for Bengal and became an integral member of their team. Experts noted his sharp keeping, even whispering that it was better than MSD’s.

Ironically, when he did make his debut, it wasn’t as a 'keeper but a specialist batsman. When South Africa toured India in 2010, Wriddhi was the reserve 'keeper in the squad. But a freak injury to Rohit Sharma on the eve of the match resulted in Saha 's being handed his debut Test cap, as a specialist batsman.

Parachuted into the team and facing a South African attack which included Dale Steyn, Saha was probably not in the right frame of mind. Quite understandably, he didn’t have a debut he'd like to remember. Steyn got him in each innings, after which he was back to the sidelines. Back to playing the waiting game.

To Saha’s credit, he never backed down. Those years of waiting must have been agonising. Especially as he wasn’t getting any younger. The competition started to increase – younger keepers like Sanju Samson and Naman Ojha arrived on the scene. But all Saha could do was wait.

A stop-start career

Another Test match arrived and again under difficult circumstances. India were touring Australia in 2012, on the cusp of a whitewash. Dhoni had been suspended owing to a slow over-rate. This time, Saha was picked as the wicket-keeper. Against a rampaging Australia intent on humiliating India, he put in a tidy performance, scoring 35 in the first innings and picking up two catches.

In between, he made his case stronger with every opportunity he got, whether in the Indian Premier League or elsewhere. Saha was the highlight of Kings XI Punjab’s successful run to the IPL final in 2014. The culmination was his spectacular 115 off just 55 balls in the final against Kolkata Knight Riders, making him the first player to score a century in an IPL final. It was like a wake-up call to all those other young upstarts. “I’m still around,” he seemed to be saying, “and I’ve waited far too long to let anyone else bypass me.”

His moment finally came in 2014 as India toured Australia again, albeit in strange circumstances. Just like his last Test match, Saha had to replace Dhoni, who couldn’t recover in time to play the first Test in Adelaide. There’s no doubt Saha will always remember this Test – in one of the most exciting Tests played by India on Australian soil, Saha arrived at the crease with India at 277/5, chasing 364 to script what would have been a miraculous victory. At the other end, Kohli was playing one of the finest knocks of his career. No doubt Saha wanted to be aggressive – to make a statement of intent against Australia.

But it backfired. Saha played one big shot too many and got out cheaply. India collapsed after this, losing a match they shouldn’t have. Much of the criticism revolved around Saha and the reckless shot he played.  It could have been the nail in the coffin for his stop-start career.

But following MSD’s retirement from Test cricket after the second test at Melbourne, Saha, as usual, took over for the last Two Tests. However, the doubts till prevailed – would he prove to be the permanent replacement for Dhoni? Or would the Indian team look past the quiet, unassuming man from Siliguri in north Bengal and go for someone younger?

Finally, Saha finds his moment in the sun

In a strange turn of circumstances though, it was probably that moment of recklessness which got Saha the new captain’s confidence. Virat Kohli publicly expressed his view that Saha deserved to be in the Indian side for the next five or six years. Kohli probably understood the pent-up hunger that had been surging through Saha all these years – going by his recent comments that India must look at winning now rather than just learning, he probably wanted someone like Saha in his side, a person who would rather go for a risky win rather than play for a safe draw.

For the first time in his career, Saha is playing without worrying over his place in the next match. The long vigil has finally ended.