Navdeep Saini: I couldn't hesitate to bowl with the injury in Brisbane

The India fast bowler says he risked aggravating his groin injury by bowling in the second innings of the Brisbane Test, but given what was at stake, “it was a no brainer.”

Navdeep Saini celebrates after India's victory on Day Five of the fourth Test in Brisbane. - AP

India fast bowler Navdeep Saini has said he risked aggravating his groin injury by bowling in the second innings of the Brisbane Test, but given what was at stake, “it was a no brainer.”

“Ajinkya bhaiya asked me if I would be able to bowl with the injury, I just had to say yes,” Saini, who was in the middle when Rishabh Pant hit the winning runs, told PTI.

Having taken four wickets in his debut game at Sydney, Saini suffered a groin strain in Australia’s first innings and could bowl only 7.5 overs. Saini wondered about the timing of his injury as he had just realised his dream of playing Tests, but like of the rest of his team-mates, he showed a steely resolve and carried on.

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“I was fine and suddenly I got injured. I was wondering why it was happening in such a crucial game [when I] got the opportunity to play after a long time,” he said.

“I just wished if could keep going with that injury and support my team. I knew I might not get a stage like that again. Captain asked me if I could do it. I was in pain but said I would do with whatever I could. I am recovering now and should be fit soon,” the lanky fast bowler from Karnal, who was fastracked into first-class cricket by former India opener Gautam Gambhir, said.

Saini, who has played two Tests, 10 T20 Internationals and seven ODIs in his career so far, is not part of India’s squad for the first two home Tests against England starting February 5 in Chennai.

Out of his four Test wickets, the first one was most special as he trapped another debutant, Will Pucovski, in front of the stumps with a full and fast incoming delivery. “All wickets were special but yes you can’t forget the first one. Because until that happens, you keep thinking about that first wicket.”

'Have to be mentally strong'

With senior bowlers like Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav out of the series, the pressure to perform instantly had increased on the likes of Saini, who had not played Tests before but had a substantial experience of playing IPL and shorter formats for India. Having not bowled with red ball in Australia ever prior to the series, Saini said it was an enriching experience.

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“It is easy to get excited in Australia with the bounce on offer. It is natural to think about bowling short balls then but Test cricket is not only about that, it is about patience and bowling in the same channel consistently. To be able to do well in Australia, you have to be mentally very strong, they don’t give up till the every end. The management was very supportive including the captain and Rohit bhaiya. They all told me to bowl the way I would bowl in Ranji Trophy,” Saini, who is back home after five long months in the world of bio-bubbles.

Mohammed Siraj, the find of Australia tour in coach Ravi Shastri’s words, was seen counselling Saini consistently in the latter’s maiden Test. It helped the Delhi pacer immensely as he and Siraj go back a long way. “He is one of my best mates. We have played a lot together (for India A). We talk a lot about bowling. He was always there for me in the first game. Pace is important but he was telling me to also focus on line and length to be effective.

“Siraj is a very different bowler. He showed a lot of courage by staying back after his father’s death. What he achieved was very crucial for the team and showed his character.”

Talking about his extraordinary journey, Saini, son of a bus driver, said he never planned to be a professional cricketer, it was only fate at play.

“I played with tennis ball for the major part of my growing up years. It all started when I played Ranji trophy. That is when I felt I could play professionally. Before that I was just playing without an aim, I had no idea. It all happened step by step after I played for Delhi,” added Saini.

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