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I get emotional whenever I think of Gambhir's role in my career: Saini

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

had never bowled with a red leather ball until one fine day he got a chance to bowl during Ranji team's net session at the Roshanara ground on a pleasant December morning in 2013.

Till then, Saini had only played ball tournaments to earn a pocket money ranging from a meagre Rs 250 to Rs 500 per match. He didn't have an idea what he should be doing with the Red SG Test ball but came to his rescue.

"told me "Jaise ball se dalta hai, waise hi dal. Koi tension nahi. Baaki sab theek ho jayega (Just bowl like you bowl with a ball. Everything will fall in place). I did what he told me and today I am here because of him. I don't know whenever I speak about Gautam Gambhir, I get emotional," an elated Saini told after receiving his maiden call-up to the Indian senior team for the Afghanistan Test.

Saini had managed to impress the key players and sneaked into the Ranji team despite initial resistance from the officials, who considered him an outsider from

Gambhir after watching him bowl for 15 minutes had decided that Saini was a rare talent, who should be groomed properly.

There were people who witnessed how Gambhir literally lost his cool during the net session when despite his repeated insistence, a Delhi selector (a distinguished former opener) didn't even make a passing glance at Saini's

However, known for being stubborn, Gambhir got him into the team despite revolt from a notorious section of DDCA officials, who had distributed pamphlets, questioning Saini's eligibility, when he was marking his run-up for his first ever over in Ranji against Vidarbha.

"I remember every tiny little thing. I know what had to go through to convince selectors that I was good enough to play for Delhi. Not to forget Ashish Nehra, Mithun Manhas, Sumit Narwal, who all stood by me.

"In fact, after first few matches, he (Gambhir) said that if I keep working hard at every practice session, I will play for He saw in me before I realised myself. Today when I look back about those days, I smile," said Saini.

Saini was summoned to bowl at the nets during series in December 2017 as the net bowler but it was Gambhir who told him to concentrate on final.

His standout performance was against Bengal in the semifinal where he was clocking mid 140s and the opposition batsmen were not even able to get their bats down on time.

"Before that performance against Bengal, I had already played for India A in sir gave me a lot of valuable tips about variation consistency. Also spending time with a RCB during IPL was also of great help. My pace has increased and I have more control on my swing," said the the 25-year-old, who is known to bowl long spells of 10-12 overs in domestic

Grandson of a freedom fighter, who was a part of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's Azad Hind Fauj, Saini is still very much attached to his roots.

"Dadaji is close to 100 years old but would never tire telling us stories of Netaji. And yes, he doesn't miss any of my matches if it is live on TV," Saini signed off.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, June 11 2018. 19:45 IST