Fast bowler Navdeep Saini has played 15 international matches for India and 13 matches in the Indian Premier League. But the 27-year-old introvert is yet to acclimatise himself to the glitz and media publicity associated with cricket in the country. “I come from a small area (Karnal in Haryana) and I live here only. I don’t meet people too often and I have never had too many friends too. I talk very less so when journalists approach me I am a little shy. I am not able to be very open with them as I’ve always been around a limited number of people,” Navdeep tells cricket.com in an exclusive conversation.
Less than a year after his international debut – against West Indies at Lauderhill in August 2019 – the shy Saini is both surprised and happy to be mobbed by fans outside home. “Life has changed a bit after playing for India. Before making my debut I used to probably give my 100% but now I give 110%. Sometimes when I go out people ask for selfies and autographs. I never thought of all this but I feel happy. It is totally unexpected though,” he gushes.
The passion and energy to give 110% to his game is something he has learnt from his Delhi captain and mentor Gautam Gambhir and IPL and India captain Virat Kohli. Navdeep says ample enthusiasm is a captaincy trait common to both the Delhiites.
“One captaincy trait similar to both Gautam bhaiya and Virat bhaiya is that they give 110% effort to everything on the field. I’ve learnt this from Gautam bhaiya right from the start when I played Ranji Trophy under him and then I learnt the same from Virat bhaiya in the Indian team. Whether at the gym or in the ground or training sessions, Virat bhaiya gives his 101% to everything everywhere. Under them I have learnt how to be mentally strong and how to keep improving my skills.”
Apart from cricketing skills, Navdeep is also honing his cooking skills during the on-going lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. While he has had to adjust to an in-house mode of training and practice, the chef-in-process is happy help his mother in the kitchen. “I am trying to improve my cooking skills during the lockdown. Sometimes I make breakfast, sometimes mixed vegetables for lunch and also non-veg food.”
While enjoying his time off cricket, the lanky pacer is also training at home to ensure that he remains fit. “Fitness is the most important for a fast bowler because if he is not fit he cannot bowl long spells. During the lockdown I have been training at home only. I am training in whatever ways possible so that I don’t take too much time to get back into rhythm post the lockdown,” he opens up.
Talking about adjusting to different formats of the game, Navdeep says that there is not much that a quick needs to change while bowling with different balls, while adding that he likes to play all three formats.
“For a fast bowler, the difference in all three formats is that you have to keep a check on your line and length. In the red-ball format you need more accuracy. How consistently you can bowl in one area is important. In white-ball cricket you need to construct and execute your plans well. There is not much difference in bowling in different formats. But you need to be mentally strong if you are playing all three formats. I like playing all three formats and prepare for all of them.”
The IPL 2020 stands suspended until further notice and organising the T20 World Cup also remains uncertain. Navdeep reckons that the IPL would have served as good preparation for the Australian event, but doesn’t want to think too far ahead.
“I was focusing on the IPL alone because T20 World Cup was still far away. I had a few plans for the IPL and wanted to execute them. But yes IPL serves as a good preparation for the T20 World Cup. You get a platform to play against top players from around the world and recognise your strengths and capabilities,” Navdeep signs off.