Ever since Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini bagged an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract, his 94-year-old grandfather Karam Singh Saini, a freedom fighter who served with Subhash Chandra Bose in Japan, has been going around his neighbourhood in Karnal on bicycle and telling friends about it.
The Saini household is bracing for IPL-10 as the 24-year-old Navdeep would be turning up for Delhi Daredevils and his family would finally watch him play live.
Father Amarjeet Singh Saini, who retired 10 months ago as a driver with Haryana government, says, “I have had a hard life. Now I want to relax and watch Navdeep do well in IPL. We will be watching a few of the matches in Delhi and also the DD tie against Kings XI Punjab in Mohali. I am so proud of Navdeep, who moved to Delhi and made a mark for himself in Ranji Trophy. Since then, he has been helping the family with money,” said the 57-year-old Amarjeet, whose father Karam Singh served as subedar in Azad Hind Fauj from 1942 to 1947 in Japan.
It was only after India got independence that he quit. Without any professional training in Karnal, the 21-year-old Navdeep came to the Capital on Delhi pacer Sumit Narwal’s insistence in 2013 and caught the attention of Gautam Gambhir.
He was immediately drafted into the Delhi team and made his Ranji debut against Vidarbha. His selection through the backdoor, however, created a major controversy in DDCA. Gambhir was criticised for picking an outsider, who hadn’t even played in Delhi league, ahead of many locals who’d been performing.
At Delhi Daredevils, he has been clubbed with other internationally known pacers like Zaheer Khan, Angelo Mathews, Corey Anderson, Kagiso Rabada, Pat Cummins and Mohammed Shami. The right-arm pacer is hoping to make the most of IPL exposure.
“It is actually overwhelming to share space with such big names. Zaheer bhai, coach Rahul Dravid and Shami bhai have been guiding me during the practice sessions. In fact, they are also helping me out with my English. I wanted to talk to Pat Cummins and Zaheer bhai and Shami bhai helped me. I know the DD squad has top-class fast bowlers, but if I am given a chance I want to make the most of it,” said Navdeep, who impressed while playing for India ‘A’ against Australia in Mumbai in February. He bagged three wickets in that match.
Navdeep got 16 wickets in the last Ranji Trophy season, eight in Vijay Hazare Trophy and six in Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. He has 53 first-class wickets from 18 matches.
Navdeep also got Gambhir’s backing when Delhi coach KP Bhaskar was allegedly giving cold shoulder to him, Nitish Rana and Unmukt Chand in the last domestic season. Navdeep was on the verge of getting dropped from the team ahead of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.
However, it did not happen due to Gambhir’s intervention.
“Your confidence goes really high when a player of Gauti bhai’s stature backs you. He did not want me to miss out on the T20 outing. I guess if I had not played, maybe an IPL contract would not have come my way. A big thanks to Gauti bhai,” added the lanky Navdeep, who was picked for Rs 10 lakh.