After Shubman Gill comes Navdeep Saini in this three-part series.
Originally from the northern Indian state of Haryana, Saini has played the majority of his first-class cricket for Delhi and India A. A right-arm quick, he’s known to clock consistently in the high 140s and has credited former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir for always backing him throughout his cricketing career.
When did Saini make his first-class debut? Saini made his first-class debut in December 2013 for Delhi. Playing against Vidarbha, Saini picked up two wickets on debut (2-18 and 0-37) as Delhi won by an innings.
When did he pick up his maiden five-wicket haul in first-class cricket? He had to bide his time before picking up his maiden five-fer in first-class cricket. In his tenth first-class game Saini ran riot over the Maharasthra line0up, taking 6-32 as Delhi won comfortably by nine wickets.
When did he rise to prominence? Saini’s rise to prominence took more time than Gill’s. Considering he had been playing tennis-ball cricket till his early 20s, Saini’s rise in professional cricket has been phenomenal. After a few seasons during which he was the backup seamer for Delhi, Saini finally shone through in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, picking up 34 wickets at an average of 23.03 as Delhi finished runners-up in the tournament.
His performances in the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy earnt him a ticket to join the Indian team for their tours of South Africa and England in 2018 as a net bowler. Following Mohammad Shami failing a fitness test, Saini would be added to India’s squad for their one-off Test against newcomers Afghanistan, but he would have to settle carrying the drinks in his maiden India call-up.
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When did Saini make his India A debut? Saini received his first India A call-up for their two first-class games against New Zealand A. In the second unofficial Test Saini had a quiet debut, picking up one wicket in the match as India A won by an innings and 26 runs.
When did Saini make a case for himself to be in India’s Test squad? One thing that set Saini apart from his seam counterparts in Indian domestic cricket was his ability to bowl express pace and not concede runs. Bowlers such as Varun Aaron and Umesh Yadav were wicket-takers, but they would leak runs as well. Saini’s steady progress for India A in first-class cricket alongside his performances for India in the shorter formats kept him in good stead.
With the uncertainty around Ishant Sharma’s fitness for India’s Test series earlier this year against New Zealand, Saini was called into India’s Test squad for the second time in his career. In a three-dayer aganst a New Zealand XI leading up to the series Saini took 2-58, but Sharma’s late inclusion in the playing XI saw him miss out on selection for both Tests.
What are his chances of playing in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy? With the fitness around Ishant Sharma still pending for the series, India’s choice for the third seamer’s spot will be a shootout over the two practice games vs Australia A. Not only will Saini have to outperform Umesh Yadav, he’ll also have to surpass fellow uncapped seamer Mohammed Siraj.
Saini FC stats For Delhi, Rest of India and India A combined 125 wickets, 28.3 average, 2.81 economy