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Exclusive: All of us miss Rishabh Pant and he will be missed till he comes back, says Navdeep Saini | Cricket News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Indian fast bowler Navdeep Saini reached London recently to join Worcestershire for his county cricket stint.
As soon as he got off the plane, Saini powered up his phone and there were a flurry of messages. Among them was a significant one, notifying him of his inclusion in India’s Test squad for the upcoming two-match series against the West Indies.
Saini, who has played two Tests, eight ODIs and eleven T20Is for India so far, last played a Test during India’s triumphant Border-Gavaskar Trophy campaign in Australia during the 2020-21 season under Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy.
Subsequently, Saini has been absent from the Test arena.
Now, the 30 year old is determined to seize this opportunity and make the most of it.
Saini was signed by Worcestershire for four matches, but he will miss three games as the schedule clashes with the West Indies Test series.

Saini, who has 4 Test, 6 ODI, and 13 T20I wickets under his belt so far, spoke to TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview and discussed his comeback to the Test side, Rishabh Pant‘s absence, Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy and much more…
You are back in the Test side, after a long time…
I am really elated and happy. I want to thank my coach, selectors, and seniors who trusted me. I am really thankful to God. I put in a lot of hard work to earn a place in the squad. I worked on my lines and lengths. I tried to bowl consistently at particular speeds.
You are aware of the conditions in the West Indies. How would you rate your chances?
As I said I worked a lot on my lines and lengths. I practiced by bowling long spells targeting particular spots (on the pitch) in the nets. As we say practice makes a cricketer perfect, I followed the same mantra. I am excited about this series. I will give my 100 percent. I know the conditions in the Caribbean. I have played India A matches here. I have played both one-day and four-day matches in the Caribbean. So, I am aware of the conditions. I am sure we will win this series. It is going to be a challenging series.


Navdeep Saini and Rohit Sharma. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
You didn’t play much in the IPL last season…
The IPL experience was good. Sharing the dressing room with world-class players was a huge thing for me. It was a big learning curve for me. I played just two matches in the IPL – the first match and the last match of the tournament. I wish I could play more matches in the IPL. I played as an impact player in the first match. My performance didn’t go the way I wanted. But the last match of the IPL was really good. I was happy with my performance. I took three wickets.
What’s your take on the young group of pacers who are part of the Indian set-up – You, Mohammed Siraj, newcomer Mukesh Kumar, Shardul Thakur?
Siraj has been amazing for the team. He is a brilliant bowler. The young group, including myself, Siraj, Shardul, and Mukesh, we have good times together. We are of the same age group. Siraj has improved with time and has bowled very well for the team. Shardul can bowl as well as bat. He is an amazing player too. I have played a couple of India A matches with Mukesh. He is a really good bowler. These guys are all talented. I have played Ranji Trophy matches against these players as well, so I know them really well. Siraj and I have been playing together since 2017. These bowlers have great calibre and will continue to do well for the Indian team.
Do you see yourself opening the bowling for the Indian team in the absence of seniors like Shami and Umesh, this time?
Yes, of course. These seniors have served the team for a long time and are still playing well. I have learned a lot from them. You are asking me this question because you have seen me bowling well, fighting for a wicket on the field. India has produced great talents. Honestly, the expectations will always be there of the bowlers, and I have always given my 100 percent. In the Caribbean, I am ready to face every challenge. I am ready to bowl in any situation and time for my team. Siraj, Shardul, Mukesh, and JD (Jaydev Unadkat) are all very talented bowlers.
You were part of the victorious Border-Gavaskar series under Ajinkya Rahane’s captaincy in Australia. When Rishabh Pant hit the winning runs, you were at the non-striker’s end. Can you take us down memory lane and also do you think the Indian team is missing Pant a lot?
I will remember that moment (winning the Border-Gavaskar series in Australia) forever. It was the best moment of my cricketing career. It was an amazing match. I was injured and in pain. When Pant hit the winning four off Josh Hazlewood, I was limping and it was raining. The moment the ball touched the boundary, I jumped up and down and started celebrating. I ran without caring about the injury. I forgot the pain while celebrating (laughs). It was an incredible atmosphere.
We all know how talented Pant is. We know his capabilities and calibre. He is a match-winner. He can change the course of the match at any time. We all know he has won a lot of matches for the team. Yes, we miss him. We all miss him, and we will continue to miss him until he comes back because he has great ability.


Navdeep Saini and Rishabh Pant celebrate victory against Australia at The Gabba on January 19, 2021 in Brisbane. (Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)
Rahane, who was the captain in Australia, has been promoted to vice-captain for the Windies series. Your take on that…
Every cricketer goes through some ups and downs. And the way Ajju bhaiya has made his comeback is remarkable. He is an inspiration. I am really happy for Ajju bhaiya. The way he played in the IPL and then in the WTC Final was just brilliant. He has been a key player in the Indian side. He led from the front in Australia and handled a team, which was completely injury riddled, really well.
India lost the WTC Final. Now the team will have another opportunity to win an ICC trophy as the World Cup is just a few months away…
Winning and losing are both part and parcel of the game and of a sports person’s life. We should learn and move on. The new season is here. The World Cup season is here. The next WTC cycle has also started. We have a talented bunch of players. We are all positive and I am sure the team will do well in the upcoming matches and tournaments.

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