Fast bowler Navdeep Saini has credited Gautam Gambhir for his remarkable rise in the gentleman’s game after he earned his maiden India call-up.
The Delhi-based pacer has replaced prominent pacer Mohammed Shami for the impending One-off Test against Afghanistan. Shami was dropped from the squad after he failed the mandatory Yo-Yo test.
Saini had grown up bowling with a tennis ball and not surprisingly his career was totally off the track as far as making it to the big stage was concerned.
The promising bowler used to play tennis ball tournaments to earn a pocket money ranging from a meagre INR 250 to INR 500 per match.
However, it all changed when he got a chance to bowl during Delhi Ranji team’s net session at the Roshanara cricket ground on a pleasant December morning in 2013.
The youngster was clueless about the leather ball before he received some words of wisdom from none other than Gautam Gambhir.
“Gautam bhaiya told me “Jaise tennis ball se dalta hai, waise hi dal. Koi tension nahi. Baaki sab theek 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,” an elated Saini told PTI.
Saini had managed to impress the key Delhi players but faced initial resistance from the officials.
Eventually, he managed to make into the Delhi Ranji team after the senior players came to his rescue.
Reports also suggest that Gambhir had once lost his cool in the nets when despite his repeated insistence, a Delhi selector didn’t even make a passing glance at Saini’s bowling.
“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,” Saini recalled.
“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 realised myself. Today when I look back about those days, I smile,” he added.