Navdeep Saini became the 299th player to represent India in the longest format of the game when he made his debut in Sydney in the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
During a discussion on the Sony Sports network, Zaheer Khan was asked how he would rate the lanky pacer's first day in Test cricket, considering he was given the ball quite late and did not bowl too many overs either.
He replied that it would have been both a 'memorable' and 'tough' day for Saini, as he would have had lots of apprehensions in his mind till he took his maiden Test wicket.
"The first day is a memorable one for any player. And it is also a tough day. You not only have to play the game but handle all the things that are going on in your mind. From that point of view, if you see, those things keep playing on your mind till you take your first wicket," said Zaheer Khan.
Zaheer Khan said that Mohammed Siraj was also at his best in the Boxing Day Test after taking his first Test wicket, saying in this regard:
"You saw in the last match as well when Siraj made his debut, he got his first wicket down the leg side. After that he was looking a different bowler. So, all the nerves go off after the first wicket."
The left-arm pacer expressed his delight about Navdeep Saini having already scalped his first victim. He added that the speedster could be at his potent best on the second day of the Sydney Test and should be judged on that performance.
"I am very happy that Saini has already picked up his first wicket in however much he bowled today. Now he will go back and sleep at ease, do all his recovery, and when he comes tomorrow you will see the real Saini. So, I feel he should be judged based on how he does tomorrow," added Zaheer Khan.
"Navdeep Saini could play a similar role to that of Ishant Sharma" - Zaheer Khan
Zaheer Khan was also asked about Navdeep Saini being preferred ahead of Shardul Thakur as the third seamer in the Indian bowling lineup for the Sydney Test.
He replied that the duo employs different methods to scalp batsmen, with Saini being a 'hit-the-deck' type of bowler while Thakur relies more on movement in the air. Zaheer Khan further observed that Navdeep Saini merited a spot, as he has been waiting in the wings for a long time after being a part of the original Test squad.
"Navdeep Saini and Shardul Thakur have totally different styles. Shardul Thakur tries to swing the ball by pitching it up while Saini picks wickets with his bounce. He has also been there with the team for a long time. If you see from that angle, showing confidence in him was very necessary," said Zaheer Khan.
Zaheer Khan also said that Navdeep Saini has been considered a promising prospect for the longest format of the game for a while. He signed off by observing that the lanky pacer could perform a role akin to that of Ishant Sharma if he performs to his potential.
"I feel it is a good opportunity for Saini because there has been a lot of talk about him since a long time that he can do better in red-ball cicket than white-ball cricket. He has shown that at the first-class level. If he grabs this chance, he could play a similar role to that of Ishant Sharma," concluded Zaheer Khan.
Navdeep Saini bowled just seven overs on a rain-curtailed first day of the New Year's Test between India and Australia in Sydney.
Although he was slightly on the shorter side at the start of his spell and proved to be a tad expensive, he seemed to have found his rhythm after scalping Will Pucovski's wicket with a well pitched-up delivery.