The rise of Karnal's Saini via Delhi courtesy Gambhir

Navdeep Saini was playing domestic cricket for Delhi when former India opener Gautam Gambhir first noticed him.

Navdeep Saini

Navdeep Saini successfully appeals for the wicket of Will Pucovski on day one of the third India-Australia Test in Sydney.   -  Getty Images

India pacer Navdeep Saini made his Test debut against Australia in the third Test in Sydney on Thursday. Saini replaced Umesh Yadav, who injured his calf muscle during the Boxing Day Test. Saini got the nod ahead of T. Natarajan [Yadav's official replacement in the squad] and Shardul Thakur who was added after Mohammed Shami picked up an injury during the Adelaide Test.

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Saini, who had been recovering from a back niggle in the lead up to the Test series, received his cap from pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah. The Karnal-born seamer picked up three wickets during a tour game, conceding at 5.44 in the second innings. Saini has played 46 first-class games and taken 128 wickets at an average of 28.46.

Saini was playing domestic cricket for Delhi when former India opener Gautam Gambhir first noticed him. The World Cup winner has played a significant hand in the rise of Saini. It was during the 2013-14 season that former Delhi cricketer Sumit Narwal saw a wiry-looking boy from Karnal bowling yorkers at will in a tennis ball tournament. Saini was being paid Rs 200 per match and Narwal immediately called up then Delhi captain Gambhir to check him out at the nets.

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What Gambhir saw during training was enough for him to get into a heated argument with then Delhi & District Cricket Association (DDCA) vice-president Chetan Chauhan to get the player from Haryana into the Delhi team.

Navdeep Saini

India's Navdeep Saini bowls during a training session at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on December 24, 2020.   -  Getty Images

 

“Gautam bhaiya, Ashish bhaiya (Nehra), Mithun Manhas rallied around me. They said what’s happening in the periphery shouldn’t be my concern. We will take care of that, you only bowl,” Saini was quoted as saying, recalling the time when DDCA officials were distributing pamphlets to keep him out of the team.

Saini hasn't looked back since. He has also, meanwhile, bagged his maiden Test wicket on debut, sending back Will Pucovski to the pavilion, with a fuller ball that trapped the Victorian plumb in front of the sticks.

(with PTI inputs)

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