Ashish Nehra backs Navdeep Saini for World Cup debut
Ashish Nehra believes that Navdeep Saini could make his World Cup debut. © BCCI

The rapid rise of uncapped pacer Navdeep Saini could actually see him making a World Cup debut, his Royal Challengers Bangalore bowling coach Ashish Nehra said here Thursday.

Snapped up for Rs 3 crore for IPL 2018, the pacer did not play any match for RCB last season but he has been a revelation this time.

The 26-year-old from Haryana was named as a standby for the World Cup beginning May 30.

“He’s got pace and bounce and the most important thing is he’s confident right now especially in this format because it’s really quick,” Nehra told reporters ahead of their match against Kolkata Knight Riders. “Within two games his confidence is high when nobody thought he will do well. That’s the beauty of IPL. He’s not going to come good in every game. He will go for runs but he’s got all the ingredients to be a good bowler.

“Look where he’s today. He is the first standby so if any fast bowler gets injured he (Saini) will be the one playing the World Cup,” he added.

A find of Gautam Gambhir, Saini, who made the Delhi Ranji team despite initial resistance from the DDCA officials, is known for cranking up raw pace.

Nehra said people kept questioning their decision to invest so heavily on Saini despite his limited success in white-ball cricket.

“He didn’t play last year. So many guys came up to me and said he plays only tournament games…. So many people were actually doubting his abilities and said you bought him for Rs 3 crores,” he said.

Navdeep Saini World Cup squad 2019
In seven games this season, Saina has taken four wickets for RCB. © BCCI

Saini has stood out at a time when senior pro Umesh Yadav and talented Mohammed Siraj have faltered especially at the death.

“It’s not easy to bowl at the death in this format. Skill-wise, I don’t think there’s any other team who have got three good fast bowlers in one team. The next name that comes to my mind is Sunrisers,” Nehra said.

“Yes they have not bowled the way they would have liked to bowl at the death or up front. But they can do better than this. Every cricketer will not have the same season.

“Last year, Umesh Yadav had a really good season. These bowlers have the skill, hope they will do better in coming games. They are working hard,” he said defending the pace duo.

Pacer Dale Steyn has come on board as a replacement for Nathan Coulter-Nile and Nehra said the South African great has very high chances of playing Friday.

“He is a very experienced campaigner. We have all seen him doing so well not only in test cricket but for other franchises also.”

With one win from eight matches, RCB’s chance of making the play-offs appears really slim but Nehra said a turnaround is still possible.

“We are always hopeful. We have seen teams qualifying winning last six games and with 14 points. We are not thinking of qualification but to play good cricket right now.

“We need to take one game at a time. We have lost a couple of really close games. It’s all about winning those moments,” the former left-arm seamer, said.

In the first leg, Andre Russell had left RCB in shambles smashing seven sixes en route to his 13-ball 48 not out as KKR had chased down a tall 206 by five wickets with fives balls to spare.

Down with a shoulder injury after being hit by a bouncer in Thursday’s practice, Russell is a doubtful starter.

Asked whether they’re relieved with Russell being doubtful for Friday’s game, Nehra said: “As a cricketer, I would like to see him playing and bowlers doing well against him and get him out. Fans also want to see good cricket. It’s not for Russell to hit big sixes every time.”