IPL 2018: Rising Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini looks to cash in on RCB stint

Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini, bought by Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), will get to play under Virat Kohli in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL), though he will miss playing under mentor Gautam Gambhir, who will lead Delhi Daredevils.

cricket Updated: Mar 02, 2018 16:19 IST
Shalini Gupta
Shalini Gupta
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
IPL 2018,2018 Indian Premier League,Navdeep Saini
Navdeep Saini (R) will play for Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL). (Twitter )

It was a catch-22 situation for Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini when he was bought by IPL team Royal Challengers Bangalore in the player auction.

Saina was over the moon after the Virat Kohli-led team splurged Rs 3 crore for him, but it also meant he won’t get to play under his idol Gautam Gambhir, who will lead Delhi Daredevils this season.

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Navdeep Saini, 25, owes his Ranji career to Gambhir’s backing. He was bought by Delhi Daredevils last season for Rs 10 lakh, but did not get to play a single game. But a tremendous 2017-18 domestic season has propelled him into the limelight.

“Gauti bhaiya was very happy for me after RCB bought me in the auction. On the other hand, I was thinking if I were in the DD squad, Gauti bhaiya could have helped during the season.

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“He told me just to keep up the good form and go for it. He told me I could learn a lot from Virat Kohli being the RCB captain. The feeling of being in the star-studded RCB team then sank in,” Saini, who bowled consistently at 140 kph during the Ranji Trophy season and bagged 34 wickets in eight matches, said.

Useful net stint

Saini bowled brilliantly against Bengal in the Ranji Trophy semifinals and took Delhi to the finals. Impressed by his talent and form, the Indian cricket team management called up Saini to South Africa, to bowl in the nets ahead of the third Test in Johannesburg.

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“I was in Johannesburg for nine days. Bowling in front of a coach like Ravi Shastri and cricketer like Virat was in itself morale boosting. I picked up things from senior members of the team too while bowling in the nets. I hope to do well this season and leave an impression and soon get into the Indian team. I will have to keep delivering the goods for Delhi, RCB, India A and North Zone and raise the standard of my game,” said Saini, who hails from Karnal, Haryana and was picked by Delhi after pacer Sumit Narwal persuaded Gambhir during a net session at the Ferozeshah Kotla ground.

Coming from a modest background – his father was a driver with the Haryana government -- Saini faced the backlash from Delhi selectors and coaches for being an outsider. But Gambhir persisted with the pacer.

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Gambhir even lost captaincy and was dropped from the state team for a couple of games by the coach. “I have had a tough journey. Had Gauti bhaiya’s constant support not been there, I would not have reached this stage. I owe a lot to him.

“I feel the amount of hard work I put in during the initial years of my training and struggle is bearing fruit. I mean who would have got such exposure with no professional cricket background,” said Saini.

Strong RCB pace line-up

Saini will join the RCB pace attack that boasts of Umesh Yadav, Tim Southee, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Chris Woakes Mohammed Siraj and Delhi teammate Kulwant Khejroliya.

The South Africa net session has already raised Saini’s profile.

“Since I went to South Africa, my residential locality Taraori in Karnal is buzzing. My grandfather Karam Singh Saini has regular visitors inquiring about my cricket career, and when I am going to play for India. He says “very soon”. I hope this “very soon” happens soon,” said Saini.

He will be play for India A in the Deodhar Trophy against Karnataka and India B and for Rest of India in the Irani Cup against Ranji Trophy champions Vidarbha this month.

First Published: Mar 01, 2018 19:21 IST