Navdeep Saini impressed on his debut for India as he picked up 3/17 against the West Indies. (Image credit: Twitter)
Navdeep Saini had to fight hard to gain acceptance in Delhi's cricket circles. The youngster had to face massive opposition from certain factions within the association, most notably from former India players Chetan Chauhan and Bishan Singh Bedi. Only one cricketer backed him and that was Gautam Gambhir. Saini put in impressive performances for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy for a couple of seasons and that saw him getting fast-tracked in the Indian cricket team, where he made his debut in the first Twenty20 International against West Indies in Florida. Saini started brilliantly by taking two wickets in his first over and then bowled a wicket-maiden in the final over to end with 3/17 from his four overs.
Following Saini's brilliant performance, Gambhir lashed out at Chauhan and Bedi for their opposition to Saini's inclusion in the Delhi team. Bedi and Chauhan were part of a faction of the Delhi and District Cricket Association members who did not approve of Gambhir's move to bring in Haryana-born Saini in the Delhi Ranji Trophy team. They had questioned how an 'outsider' could get into the Delhi team. Gambhir wrote on his Twitter handle, "Kudos Navdeep Saini on ur India debut. U already have 2 wkts even before u have bowled-@BishanBedi & @ChetanChauhanCr. Their middle stumps are gone seeing the debut of a player whose cricketing obituary they wrote even before he stepped on the field, shame!!!" This was the second instance Gambhir had criticised the duo, having done the same when Saini was included in the Indian Test team for the one-off Test against Afghanistan in June 2018. Saini did not play the match.
Saini, meanwhile, said he did not believe his luck when he was presented with the Indian cap in Florida ahead of the match. The youngster responded the faith put on him by Virat Kohli as he bowled brilliantly and impressed everyone with his pace. Speaking after the end of the match to the official Twitter handle of the BCCI to Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Saini said there was pressure but it eased out after taking two wickets.
"When I received the India cap (on Saturday morning), I could not believe that today is the day which I was waiting for. I am very happy to make the debut for India. My confidence was low initially as I was having the pressure of making the debut. The first wicket released the pressure. Then, when I got the second wicket my confidence increased and I felt like I was playing a normal match. When I was to bowl the hat-trick ball, I felt like 'it is something which I have been seeing others do, it is happening to me'. Then, I was focussing on how to take the wicket," Saini said.
India will be aiming to wrap the series on Sunday when they play the second Twenty20 International on Sunday in Fort Lauderhill.