Navdeep Saini: India's latest pace sensation
At one point in time, India found it hard to produce good quality fast bowlers who couldn’t not only bowl over 140 kmph, but also have control with that speed. India was never known for producing a big list of quality fast bowlers, like their arch-rivals Pakistan.
Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami, and Varun Aaron were a few who could bowl fast and were on the fringes and in and around the Indian team in the early part of the decade.
But, none of them were consistent and both Yadav and Aaron were quite erratic. Ishant Sharma had the ability to bowl quick in his initial years, but his speed died down as he grew in experience.
However, as this current decade has gone along, India have started to unearth some excellent fast bowlers.
Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah who were predominantly seen as white-ball (limited-overs) specialists have transitioned excellently into the longer formats.
They have done well and impressed everyone. Shardul Thakur has been on the fringes for a year now. Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami have become a lot more consistent, especially in Test cricket.
These bowlers are now the heart of India’s pace attack. Most of these can bowl at good speeds and have good control as well.
Not only these pacers, there are a number of fast bowlers in the domestic circuit who’ve been doing well.
The likes of Rajneesh Gurbani, Kulwant Khejroliya, Navdeep Saini, Nathu Singh, Avesh Khan (among others) along with U19 sensations Shivam Mavi and Kamlesh Nagarkoti, have impressed quite a bit.
With the development of these pacers, it shows that India’s fast bowling stocks have risen and it seems to be in safe hands. And with the Mohammed Shami failing the fitness test, it has opened up an opportunity for 25-year-old Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini who has done really well in the last Ranji season.
This is the first time that he has earned a national call-up and he will now travel to Bengaluru and join the Indian team ahead of the historic Test match against Afghanistan.
Here are some facts about India’s latest pace sensation, Navdeep Saini.
#1 Navdeep Saini is a promising young fast bowler who plays for Delhi in domestic cricket. He has the ability to bowl quick (over 140 kmph) and has good control over his line and length. While he made his first-class debut in 2013, it took another couple of years for him to make his List ‘A’ and T20 debuts.
#2 Born on the 23rd of November in 1992 in Karnal (Haryana), Navdeep Saini hailed from a family which was not financially sound. His father worked as a driver in the Haryana Government. His family couldn’t quite afford fees for a cricketing academy and hence, he used to play a lot of tennis ball tournaments.
#3 Playing in the Karnal Premier League which was conducted by Delhi pacer Sumit Narwal, Saini impressed quite a few people. Looking at the young pacer’s potential and talent, Narwal took Saini to Delhi (and asked him to join his academy) and shifted the latter’s base to the capital city.
#4 It was first as a net bowler that he impressed the Delhi skipper Gautam Gambhir who wanted him in the team along with a few other youngsters and hence, this led to Gambhir’s fallout with the coach which eventually led to a four-match ban.
#5 However, not everything went smoothly for Saini. His first-class debut was a fairly controversial one.
Even before he had stepped onto the field for his debut, the DDCA (Delhi & District Cricket Association) were not happy and did not approve the Haryana pacer’s selection. This was because Saini had not taken part in any form of league cricket associated with the DDCA.
#6 Despite the odds stacked against him, Navdeep Saini made his first-class debut on 14th December 2013, as a part of a four-pronged pace attack which included veteran Ashish Nehra, Parvinder Awana, and Sumit Narwal apart from him. He impressed in his maiden outing with the ball as he took 2/18.
#7 Saini made his List ‘A’ and T20 debut in the 2015-2016 season. He had figures of 2/51 on his List ‘A’ debut against Baroda while he bowled four overs for 32 runs without picking up a wicket on his T20 debut against Railways.
#8 Despite being able to generate good speeds and discomforting bounce at times, Saini couldn’t quite break into the Delhi side and was constantly in and out of the team due to a few injuries and some inconsistent performances. He played 5 Ranji games each in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons picking up 13 and 16 wickets respectively.
#9 He was also a part of the India ‘A’ team which played the practice game against the visiting Australian side in early 2017. He constantly troubled the Aussie batsmen and also dismissed the openers David Warner and Matt Renshaw in the first innings. He had figures of 2/42 (in 19.4 overs) and 1/20 (in 7 overs) in that game.
#10 Saini was a constant member of the Delhi side in the last Ranji season (2017-18) and was in the top five wicket-takers list. He scalped 34 wickets in 8 games in what was an excellent Ranji season for Delhi (where they reached the final and lost to Vidarbha).
#11 Navdeep Saini was also selected to travel to South Africa as a net bowler and to be along with the Indian team on their tour to the Rainbow Nation.
However, on the insistence of Gautam Gambhir, Saini stayed back and played the knockout stages of the Ranji Trophy. His exploits in the semi-final where he had match figures of 7 for 79 drove Delhi into the Ranji final. He also picked up a fifer in the final.
#12 Navdeep Saini in an interview with TOI, revealed that he was nothing without Gautam Gambhir and he because of him, he’s reached a certain level. It was Gambhir who fought for the Haryana pacer’s spot in the team with the coach and the association.
“I owe this life and my success to Gautam Gambhir. I was nobody and Gautam Bhaiya did everything for me. I was happy that I would go to South Africa but I called up Gautam bhaiya. He said Delhi needs you now for the semi-final and if you do well, you will be automatically in that Indian dressing room. I didn't think twice,” he told.
#13 After his impressive performances in the domestic circuit, the 25-year-old pacer was bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in this year’s IPL auction for a hefty sum for Rs 3 crore.
However, he didn’t get a chance to prove himself as he warmed the benches and didn’t play a single game. Nonetheless, he shared the dressing room with some of the stars of world cricket and also got to work closely with veteran pacer Ashish Nehra.
#14 Navdeep Saini got due rewards for his consistent and impressive performances as he was named in the India ‘A’ squad which will tour England for four-day games in July.
#15 Navdeep Saini has now received his maiden India call-up after Mohammed Shami failed to pass the fitness (Yo-Yo Test). He now joins the team as the fourth pacer alongside Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, and Shardul Thakur.