Former Indian fast bowler Ashish Nehra has called for Navdeep Saini’s inclusion in the Indian team for the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Nehra also pointed out that Navdeep Saini has been in the Test squad from the start, unlike Shardul Thakur and T Natarajan, who came in later.
Nehra, who picked more than 200 international wickets for India, has worked with Navdeep Saini during his stint as Royal Chalenger Bangalore’s bowling coach in the past.
With Umesh Yadav ruled out of the series with an injury, he has backed Saini to partner Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Siraj in India’s pace bowling attack.
“If you look at squad composition, Saini was the first choice and Shardul and Natarajan both came in as replacements Shami and Yadav. If Saini was ahead of them during initial Test squad selection, I don’t see any reason why he would slip down in the pecking order. You selected him first, so obviously, you believed he was better than the other two. Navdeep’s biggest assets are bounce and extra pace. “
India's third pace bowling option has been a recurring problem this series. With Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav all missing due to injuries, the fight is on among Shardul Thakur, Navdeep Saini and T Natarajan for the third seamer’s slot.
All three candidates have different things going for them. T Natarajan made a glittering start to his India career, ending as the top wicket-taker in the T20I series against Australia.
Shardul Thakur is the most experienced out of the lot when it comes to first-class cricket, with 206 wickets to his name.
On the other hand, Navdeep Saini has been with the team from the start and played the second practice match against Australia A.
Ashish Nehra feels Navdeep Saini would be ideal for Sydney wicket
Navdeep Saini’s poor show during the practice match against Australia A saw him drop behind Mohammed Siraj in the pecking order.
The fast bowler also failed to impress in the white-ball series against Australia, as he picked up a solitary wicket across two games.
However, Ashish Nehra feels that Saini deserves a chance, just like Siraj, who came through the system.
Nehra claimed that although T Natarajan has done well in limited-overs cricket, Navdeep Saini is more equipped to handle Test matches.
“This is a Test match. How does Natarajan normally gets his wickets? When people are trying to hit him. Also, you haven’t tested Natarajan by playing him for India A as you did with Mohammed Siraj, who has risen through the ranks. Navdeep has also come up the ranks having been on multiple red ball tours of India A. In Test matches, batsmen normally don’t get out. You have to get them out. That’s the difference.”
The third Test of the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy will be played at the SCG and Nehra thinks Saini’s extra pace and ability to reverse swing makes him the ideal pick for the third seamer's slot.
“On Sydney pitch, you will require a bit more pace and Navdeep has that. There shouldn’t be any debate as such. Sydney pitches what I saw during white-ball games, it was very flat. So when kookaburra seam will flatten out after some time, you will require that extra pace that Navdeep has and also he can get a bit of reverse swing.”
It remains to be seen if Navdeep Saini actually makes his Test debut at the SCG.