Saini started his domestic cricket for Delhi and was part of the Rajasthan Royals for IPL 2022. He last played for India on a tour of Sri Lanka 12 months ago. He is set to play three County Championship matches and five Royal London Cup games.
He became the fifth Indian player after Cheteshwar Pujara (Sussex), Washington Sundar (Lancashire), Krunal Pandya (Warwickshire for the Royal London Cup) and Umesh Yadav (Middlesex) to sign a county contract in 2022. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to play county cricket and I look forward to giving my all for Kent,” Saini said.
Saini could make his debut against Warwickshire next week and is set to play alongside New Zealand pacer Matt Henry, who is returning for a second stint at Kent after impressing in 2018. South Africa all-rounder George Linde is also in his books but county teams can field only two overseas players in a playing XI.
Kent has struggled to take championship wickets throughout the season due to a combination of fitness, form and flat pitches, and their loss to Northamptonshire this week has left them in eighth place in the 10-team Division One this season. There are five games left.
His ineffectiveness with the ball prompted his director of cricket Paul Downton to plunge into the transfer market. “In a year when wicket-taking has been difficult, we are excited to have a pace bowler like Navdeep in our squad,” Downton said.
In February 2019, former ECB chief executive Tom Harrison admitted that the participation of Indian players was “a political conversation as much as … it is not only the ECB and The Hundred that will be keen to include Indian players. Obviously this is a broader discussion.”
The BCCI does not allow active male players to participate in any foreign short-form leagues, but several recent India internationals, including Navdeep Saini, will feature in the 50-over second-string competition.