Navdeep Saini credits former world cup winner for his India call-up for the Test against Afghanistan

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Navdeep Saini credits Gautam Gambhir's mentoring following national call-up

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SportsCafe Desk

06/12/2018

Navdeep Saini, who got picked up for India’s one-off Test against Afghanistan, has credited Gautam Gambhir's mentorship to him in tough times for his success. Saini had managed to impress key players and sneaked into the Delhi Ranji team despite the DDCA officials' resistance in 2013.

Navdeep Saini has rightly been given the priority for his consistency in the domestic seasons after Mohammed Shami failed to clear the Yo-Yo test. And the bowler has credited his success to Gautam Gambhir, who discovered him through Delhi Ranji Trophy net session.

Saini had started his career quite unconventionally, when he got a chance to bowl with a leather bowl for the first time during Delhi Ranji team's net session at the Roshanara cricket ground in December, 2013. Until then, he had only played tennis ball tournaments to earn a pocket money ranging from a meager Rs 250 to Rs 500 per match. He didn't have any idea about the Red SG Test ball before Gautam Gambhir came to his rescue. 

"Gautam bhaiya told me 'Jaise tennis ball sedalta hai, waise hi dal. Koi tension nahi. Baaki sabtheek ho jayega (Just bowl like you bowl with a tennis ball. Everything will fall in place)'. I did what he told me and today I am here because of him. I don't know whenever I speak about Gautam Gambhir, I get emotional," Saini told PTI.

After watching him bowl for 15 minutes, the former Delhi Daredevils captain had realized that Saini was a rare talent, who should be groomed properly. Saini had managed to impress the key Delhi players to make his way into the Delhi Ranji team despite initial resistance from the board officials, who considered him as an outsider from Haryana. According to the report from TOI, Gambhir had lost his cool during the net session when despite his repeated insistence, a Delhi selector (a distinguished former India opener) didn't even make a passing glance at Saini's bowling.

However, Gambhir managed to get him into the team despite the revolt from DDCA officials, who had distributed pamphlets, questioning Saini's eligibility, when he was marking his run-up for his first ever over in Ranji against Vidarbha.

"I remember every tiny little thing. I know what Gautam bhaiya had to go through to convince selectors that I was good enough to play for Delhi. Not to forget Ashish Nehra, Mithun Manhas, Sumit Narwal, who all stood by me. In fact, after first few matches, he (Gambhir) said that if I keep working hard at every practice session, I will play for India. He saw in me before I realized myself. Today when I look back about those days, I smile," said Saini.

Saini’s standout performance came against Bengal in the Ranji Trophy semi-final, where he clocked in the mid of 140s and the opposition batsmen were not even able to get their bats down on time.

"Before that performance against Bengal, I had already played for India A in South Africa. Rahul Dravid sir gave me a lot of valuable tips about variation consistency. Also spending time with Ashish Nehra at RCB during IPL was also of great help. My pace has increased and I have more control on my swing," said the 25-year-old. 

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