They were quite a rollercoaster few hours for Navdeep Saini. He landed in London on Friday morning for a county stint and got the news that he had been recalled to India’s squad for the two-Test series in the West Indies.
“I came here to play county (cricket), landing today itself, and the moment I got out from the airport, I received the news that I have been selected for the West Indies tour,” Saini told The Indian Express from the British capital.
Saini, one of the heroes of the famous Brisbane victory in 2021, has not played Test cricket since. With Mohammed Shami being rested, he is the only bowler in the squad who can click 140 kmph and since he is also a hit-the-deck bowler, it might give him an edge over Jaydev Unadkat and Mukesh Kumar for the third pacer’s slot in the playing XI.
“Honestly, I was not expecting this call. Yes, during the IPL, I was training with the Dukes ball because I thought I might get picked as a net bowler or would be among the standbys for the World Test Championship final,” Saini said.
The 30-year-old has signed a four-match deal with Worcestershire, but after the India call-up, he might have to cut his stint short.
“Hopefully, I will get to play one match before going to the West Indies. It will be good preparation for me to get some overs under my belt,” he said.
India play the opening Test of the Caribbean tour in Dominica from July 12-16 before the second and final game in Trinidad from July 20-24.
Saini is expected to play against Derbyshire in the game starting on Sunday, but won’t be available to face Yorkshire (July 10-13), Leicestershire (July 19-22) and Gloucestershire (July 26-29).
Since his heroics at the ’Gabba, where he bowled with a groin injury in the second innings, Saini has been a regular visitor at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru. He picked up one injury after another and even missed the full Ranji Trophy season due to an abdominal strain.
“A fast bowler is prone to injuries,” he said. “The good thing for me was that there were no recurring injuries, which can really be frustrating. But at the same time, it was a bit annoying because I was picking different injuries. It is not in our hands. I accepted it and my only focus was on rehabilitation making a comeback,” the pacer said.
Saini, who hails from Taraori in Haryana, says he always knew that he was in contention for an India call-up and was waiting for a chance.
“Luckily, I have always travelled with the team, be it as a squad player or net bowler. The team management has trust in my capabilities. I was always in the mix. I was always close. I knew I would get my chance, I just had to follow my process.
“This will be my second tour to the West Indies. Last time I didn’t get a chance to play, but hopefully, this time I will. I know the conditions. The pitches are low and slow and similar to those back home,” he said.