While Navdeep Saini was bursting into the spotlight by taking two wickets in his very first over for India in the first T20I against West Indies on Saturday, Gautam Gambhir would have had a smile of redemption on his face. Since discovering Saini’s pace in Delhi’s net sessions six years ago, Gambhir has gone out on a limb to push Saini’s case – buying him a pair of boots, asking him to be a regular at the nets and also fighting with Delhi selectors for him.
Gambhir tweeted minutes after Saini bowled a dream first over for the Men in Blue – picking up Nicholas Pooran with his fourth ball and Shimron Hetmeyer with his fifth – “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 debut of a player whose cricketing obituary they wrote even before he stepped on the field, shame!!!”
Gambir reportedly had a heated argument with DDCA vice-president Chetan Chauhan pushing for Saini’s Delhi selection in 2013. Bishan Singh Bedi had been the DDCA president in 2013.
Gambhir had slammed Bishan Bedi and Chetan Chauhan on social media last year as well, when Saini earned his first call-up into the Indian team for a Test match against Afghanistan. Gambhir had tweeted then: “My ‘condolences’ to few DDCA members, @BishanBedi @ChetanChauhanCr on selection of ‘outsider’ Navdeep Saini to India squad. Am told black armbands are available in Bangalore too for INR 225 per roll!!! Sir, just remember Navdeep is an Indian first then comes his domicile @BCCI.”
Speaking to PTI in 2017, Saini had said, “I owe this life and my success to Gautam Gambhir. I was a nobody and Gautam bhaiyaa did everything for me.”
“Gautam bhaiya, Ashish bhaiya (Nehra), Mithun Manhas rallied around me. They said what’s happening in the periphery shouldn’t be my concern. We will take care of that, you only bowl,” Saini had said in 2017, recalling the time when DDCA officials were reportedly distributing pamphlets to keep him out of the team.
After the two wickets in his very first international over, Saini claimed the wicket of Kieron Pollard (49) in the 20th over to finish with figures of 3/17 on debut.
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