IPL 2020: Lucky to have Saini at RCB, says Hesson

Chandresh Narayanan/Dubai
Filed on October 25, 2020
Navdeep Saini of the Royal Challengers Bangalore bowls during the match against Kolkata Knight Riders. (IPL)

Saini now has a special challenge from Gambhir, one that India’s 2011 World Cup-winning hero feels he can achieve

Bowl Fast’ that was a message that caught the eyes of a billion viewers recently.

This was inscribed on the shoes of India’s new pace sensation Navdeep Saini and the ever-vigilant cameras spotted it during the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) 2020.

The message on Saini’s shoes has confirmed what the right-arm bowler has done with the white ball all through the season. He has impressed one and all with his speed which has helped him rise in stature in the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) ranks quite effortlessly.

Before the season started Saini was paired up with champion paceman Dale Steyn in RCB’s now famous mentorship-buddy programme. Saini has spent a lot of time learning the skills of the trade from Steyn himself in the lead-up and during the tournament.

Those learnings have helped Saini immensely as he has even left his mentor Steyn and senior India paceman Umesh Yadav behind in the pace bowling pecking order within the Bangalore franchise. Saini is now the first-choice Indian paceman in the line-up, which shows the faith that captain Virat Kohli has in him.

What really helped Saini’s cause was the bowling in the Super Over finish against Mumbai Indians at the Dubai International Stadium. Saini conceded just seven in the over against the likes of Hardik Pandya and Kieron Pollard leading to lavish praises from captain Kohli.

RCB’s Director of Cricket Mike Hesson also lauded Saini for his rise as a bowler.

"Navdeep Saini is an integral part of our bowling unit at RCB. His pace allows the captain to use him as an aggressive option during all three phases of the game," Hesson told Khaleej Times.

"With a steep bouncer, good change of pace and the ability to bowl yorkers under pressure as we saw during the Super Over victory against Mumbai he is developing into the complete T20 (bowler). Still developing and subtle areas to improve so still very much on the rise, we are lucky to have him at RCB," he added.

The other big plus about Saini this season has been his express speed which has really been the talk of the town. Currently on the list of fastest deliveries of the season, Saini is the quickest Indian at 149.34 kmph.

He features on the list five times amongst 100 fastest deliveries of the season, with Jasprit Bumrah being the only other Indian on the list. The others on the list include: Anrich Nortje, Kagiso Rabada, Jofra Archer, James Pattinson, Lockie Ferguson and Pat Cummins.

But there has been the downside too for Saini this season. His two beamers -first to Rahul Tewatia of Rajasthan Royals and Delhi Capitals’ Marcus Stoinis -- have also been talked about. He was slow to apologise to Stoinis but that should be only a blip in what has been a season of growth for the bowler.

His early mentor and big-time backer, former India opener Gautam Gambhir is thrilled with his progress.

"Navdeep is a natural athlete and with his action I thought he could be a very good Test match bowler. But I am glad to note that he is turning out to be an equally effective white ball bowler too. Personally, I feel more than the pace, his control and skill to move the ball around which is invaluable. Any captain would love to have him in his ranks," Gambhir told Khaleej Times.

Saini’s other mentor, Ashish Nehra, a former India paceman too was impressed with his rise. "He has all the ingredients to be a good bowler. He has pace and bounce and, most importantly, he’s confident," said Nehra.

Saini now has a special challenge from Gambhir, one that India’s 2011 World Cup winning hero feels he can achieve.

"If anything, I’d push him to concentrate on his batting as well. For any player to be an asset for his side he cannot be unidimensional. He needs to work on that part," signed off Gambhir.

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