Saini thanks Virat Kohli for inspiration

Heading into his IPL debut, at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium on Saturday, pacer Navdeep Saini looked at Kohli to calm his nerves.

RCB pacer Navdeep Saini during the net session at M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bengaluru on Tuesday.   -  G.P. SAMPATH KUMAR

 

Pacer Navdeep Saini was impressive in Royal Challengers Bangalore’s opening IPL match, against Chennai Super Kings (CSK), on Saturday, earning praise from his skipper Virat Kohli.

Saini generated good pace, even striking Shane Watson on the helmet with a sharp bouncer.

The Delhi fast bowler is one for the future, a pleased Kohli said, after RCB slipped to a seven-wicket loss.

“After hearing what Virat bhai said, my confidence has risen from 90 per cent to 100 per cent,” Saini said at a media interaction here on Tuesday.

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Saini was picked by RCB in the 2018 auction for Rs 3 crore, but he didn’t get a game that season. Heading into his IPL debut, at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, he looked at Kohli to calm his nerves.

“Virat bhai has taught me to put in maximum effort in all aspects of the game – be it training, gym sessions and everything else. He also believes that the match is not over until the last ball. Even if the team is in a bad position, you must give full effort,” Saini said.

It has been a long and difficult road to the top for Saini. He began his cricket journey by playing in the obscure Karnal Premier League, during which he was spotted by Delhi all-rounder Sumit Narwal.

Saini was then invited to the Delhi nets, where he impressed skipper Gautam Gambhir. “I went to the nets primarily to see how Kohli, (Virender) Sehwag, Gambhir (Gautam), and (Ashish) Nehra and all these India stars were in real life,” Saini said.

At the insistence of Gambhir, Saini was included in the Delhi team, despite hailing from the neighbouring state of Haryana.

Saini has repaid Gambhir’s trust in full, turning in terrific returns in the last two domestic seasons. “Gautam bhaiyya gave me a big chance when I didn’t have much. I didn’t even have a pair of cricket shoes at that time. He has had the biggest role in my life,” Saini stated.