IPL: Tennis ball cricket helped me add speed, says Navdeep Saini 

Navdeep Saini

Bengaluru: Fast developing into a tearing pacer, Navdeep Saini says playing demanding tennis ball cricket has played a huge role in his gaining a lot of speed.

Saini, an India A regular, had also earned a maiden Test call-up for the one-off Test against Afghanistan last June, can consistently bowl in 140s.

“All the help I have got in my bowling is all because of tennis ball cricket. If you want to bowl full with tennis ball, it is crucial you are fast. Since I bowled a lot with the tennis ball, it helped me build strength. Because of that, my arm speed increased as well,” he said.

“Virat keeps telling me, ‘show the same intensity of a match at the nets also. In the nets if you’re conditioned to give 110 per cent, you will be at 95 per cent level in the match, because there’s added pressure’. Bowling to top batsmen like Kohli and de Villiers gives me a lot of confidence,’ Saini said.

Saini also expressed his gratitude to former Test cricketer Gautam Gambhir, who played a key role in his professional growth. Saini’s initiation into Delhi cricket began when he got a chance to bowl to Gambhir. There was a change in venue for practice and designated net bowlers could not be informed, handing Saini to show his skills at Roshanara ground.

Saini fondly remembered the time when he did not even have proper bowling shoes. “Gautam bhaiyya has had the biggest role in my life so far. He was the one who gave me an opportunity when I didn’t have much idea about red-ball cricket. I didn’t have shoes also. He showed a lot of confidence in me,” he told reporters here.

Saini, then a tennis-ball bowler, earned money playing local tournaments, bowled with the red ball for the first time and kept beating Gambhir with his pace.

After the session, Gambhir arranged for a pair of spikes and ensured that Saini bowled regularly at the Delhi team’s net sessions. Gambhir got him to play for Delhi after a number of backroom fights with DDCA selectors.

Eventually, he succeeded and Saini made his debut for Delhi during the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy season. Now, Saini is working under the watchful eyes of Royal Challengers Bangalore bowling coach Ashish Nehra and captain Virat Kohli.

Saini, who was seen practising wide yorkers, said he gets to learn a lot from him. “Ashu bhaiyya has vast knowledge about T20s. He tells me how to plan against different batsmen,” he said.