Navdeep Saini's road to the India Test squad

Navdeep Saini celebrates a wicket Associated Press

Who is Navdeep Saini?

A tall right-arm quick who hits speeds upwards of 140kph, Navdeep Saini broke into the Delhi squad in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy at the age of 21. Saini's sharp pace has attracted the attention of the national selectors for some time now, and his credentials were further validated when he had his breakout first-class season in 2017-18.

Hailing from Karnal in Haryana, Saini had a tough initiation into cricket owing mainly to his financially poor background. Not being able to afford coaching at a cricket academy, Saini grew up playing tennis-ball tournaments and used the cash rewards from his success there to enroll into the Karnal Premier League, a tournament conducted by the Dehi seamer Sumit Narwal. It was Narwal who spotted potential in Saini and brought him to Delhi.

Saini earned an India A cap for the tour of South Africa in 2017 and returned seven wickets in two matches. He was then selected to play in the Duleep Trophy the following month and also turned out against New Zealand A at home.

What is his bowling style?

Saini has both the physical and technical attributes that make a successful fast bowler. He is tall and wiry, has a quick run-up and even quicker arm-speed. The jump is a product of a sharp trigger movement and he can manage subtle variations with his supple wrists. Saini's early experience of bowling with tennis balls programmed him to perfect the yorker. As a result, his trajectories can be pretty deceptive: batsmen often stay back because of his height, but Saini largely bowls on the fuller side of a good length. In addition to skidding the ball into the batsman's body, he can also reverse it.

What is his claim to fame?

Saini was one of the driving forces of Delhi's march to the final of the 2017-18 Ranji Trophy, where he was their highest wicket-taker with 34 scalps. But his defining performance came in the semi-final of the tournament, against Bengal. Mohammed Shami, the man Saini replaces in the Test squad, had produced a six-wicket haul that had kept Delhi's first-innings lead to 112. With just the third day in progress, many results seemed possible. But Saini shut out the game in under a session, snaring 4 for 35 to send Bengal packing for 86 and consign them to an innings defeat. Saini cut through the heart of the Bengal batting, taking out Sudip Chatterjee and Manoj Tiwary, before adding the wickets of Aamir Gani and B Amit. He followed it up with a five-wicket haul in the final, but Delhi succumbed to a superior Vidarbha attack.

Recent performances

Saini hasn't done anything substantial since the high of the Ranji season. He took eight wickets in six matches, including a four-wicket haul, in the 50-over Vijay Hazare Trophy. He had a quiet Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, taking four wickets in as many matches as Delhi made the final, but gave away just 84 runs in 15 overs. He also made the India A squad in the Deodhar Trophy and the Rest of India squad for the Irani Cup.

Saini's domestic exploits drew the attention of the Royal Challengers Bangalore bowling coach Ashish Nehra, and fetched him an IPL contract worth 468000 USD approx (INR 3 crore). However, he did not get a game in IPL 2018. Most recently, he was named in the India A squad for the four-day game against England Lions in Worcester in July.