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India vs Sri Lanka | Scintillating Saini Pushes Case for Regular Spot in White-ball Team

Playing in only his 7th T20I, Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini dominated Sri Lanka with searing pace and consistency and was rightfully named Player of the Match.

Shayne Dias |Cricketnext |January 8, 2020, 3:40 PM IST
India vs Sri Lanka | Scintillating Saini Pushes Case for Regular Spot in White-ball Team

The second T20I between India and Sri Lanka at Indore saw the focus largely on the return of Jasprit Bumrah, the man considered the lynchpin of India’s enviable fast-bowling attack across formats.

Yet by the end of the night the spotlight shone bright on another talented pacer who many would argue is a tad bit unlucky to not be playing for the Men in Blue on a more regular basis.

Playing in only his 7th T20I, Delhi pacer Navdeep Saini dominated Sri Lanka with searing pace and consistency and was rightfully named Player of the Match after ending the first innings with figures of 2-18 in his 4 overs.

It represented yet another step in the right direction for the 27-year old, who recently made his ODI debut in the deciding match of the West Indies series and looked right at home, taking 2 wickets as India went on to register a series win.

Different Proposition

At a time when India’s pace attack is largely considered one of the best in the world, the emergence of Saini only bodes well for Virat Kohli & co, mainly because he offers something wholly different to the rest of India’s fast bowlers: raw pace.

This much was clearly evident during the T20I at Indore. Whereas Bumrah caused trouble with his accuracy and Shardul Thakur relied more on variations, Saini’s best results came when he cranked the intensity up several notches.

His first over was forgettable as Avishka Fernando scored two boundaries off him but his second over saw him use his pace to trouble the batsmen.

Saini began the over bowling three balls that were slightly back of a length before loading up an explosive 147.5 km/h yorker that rattled the middle stump of Danushka Gunathilaka.

His unplayable speed was on display once again during his final over as he bowled a 141 km/h bouncer that Bhanuka Rajapaksa tried to hook but only succeeded in edging one to Rishabh Pant.

Adapting to the Challenge

However, it is worth noting that Saini’s success came largely down to the fact that he chose the correct moments to unleash his pace rather than going hell for leather at every opportunity.

“When I made my T20I debut, I wanted to bowl fast, but now I know the importance of the slower deliveries. It's important to be confident and it's also important to use the variations,” Saini had said at the post-match presentation ceremony.

At Indore, he used the slower balls and cutters to good effect and this made him even harder to play at full tilt.

Saini had caught everyone’s attention during the 2019 edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) while playing for Royal Challengers Bangalore but on more than one occasion, his express pace had been his undoing.

On pitches that were batter-friendly, most batsmen chose to simply go hard at him and the speed of his deliveries meant it was easier to dispatch him to the boundary.

But by realising the value of variations in the shortest format of the game, Saini has made a case to be front and center of India’s plans for the upcoming T20 World Cup.

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