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Birthday special: Navdeep Saini – One of India’s most exciting upcoming pacers

With his ability to use his speed with accuracy even on flat surfaces and variations like slower balls, bouncers and toe-crushing yorkers at his disposal, the right-arm fast bowler from Karnal is being touted as the next big thing in Indian cricket. With proper guidance and good opportunities, Saini can bloom in international cricket as he has all the ingredients of being a match-winning fast bowler for the country.

Hailed as one of the biggest stars on the cricket horizon, Saini’s journey from playing tennis-ball cricket in local tournaments in Karnal for earning Rs 200 per match to donning the Blue Jersey has been nothing less than a fairy-tale. Saini was spotted by Delhi cricketer Sumit Narwal in 2013 while bowling in the nets in Karnal and he further introduced the pacer with veteran batsman Gautam Gambhir. Gambhir was highly impressed with the seamer and he brought him to Delhi which changed his life for good.

However, not everything went smoothly after that as DDCA (Delhi & District Cricket Association) were not happy with the inclusion of a Haryana pacer in the Delhi team. But Gambhir fought with the organization and made sure that Saini played for Delhi in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy edition.

First-class cricket

Navdeep finally made his first-class debut on 14th December 2013, as a part of a four-pronged pace attack which included the likes of Ashish Nehra, Parvinder Awana, and Sumit Narwal. He had a good outing as he finished with the figures of 2/18. This was followed by the pacer making his List A and T20 debut in the 2015-2016 season.

Though Saini was impressive with his speed and accuracy, he couldn’t become a regular feature in Delhi’s domestic side. He played just 5 Ranji Games each in the 2015-16 and 2016-17 edition and picked 13 and 16 wickets respectively.

However, the 2017-18 Ranji edition was a breakthrough season for the young lad. He featured in 8 games for Delhi’s side and picked up 34 scalps. Saini further bowled the spell of his life against Bengal in the semi-final. His figures of 7 for 79 helped Delhi in booking a berth in the final of the tournament. He also picked up a fifer in the final but Delhi lost to Vidarbha.

IPL and international career

His brilliant performance prompted the IPL franchise Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) to pick him in the IPL 2018 auctions for a staggering amount of INR 3 crores. Though Navdeep had to warm the bench in 2018, he finally made his debut in the Indian Premier League in 2019 edition. Saini played 13 matches in the season and picked up 11 wickets.

His sheer pace and accuracy impressed the RCB and Indian skipper Virat Kohli and Saini was soon drafted in the Indian team for a limited-overs series against West Indies. In his debut T20 International on August 3 on the Caribbean soil, Navdeep Saini was adjudged the Man of the Match award for taking a three-wicket haul and dismissing power-hitters Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard and Shimron Hetmyer. Against the same opposition in December 2019 in India, the seamer made his ODI debut and picked Hetmyer as his first ODI wicket.

Navdeep Saini has impressed who’s who of the cricket fraternity with his raw pace and accuracy and he belongs to that rare breed of fast bowlers who can constantly bowl at a speed of 150 kmph. Saini is an exciting pace bowler and if utilized properly can do wonders for the National team in the international circuit.

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