With a fiery spell of pace bowling that included two wickets off successive balls against the Kolkata Knight Riders in the Champions League T20 last week, Ashish Nehra, 35, appears to be telling the Indian selectors that his life credo is “never say never”.
Nehra’s emergence as the leading wicket-taker in the championship even caught the eye of Pakistani pace great
“He can be the solution to India’s death bowling problems,” Akhtar said while commentating during the Chennai Super Kings match against Lahore Lions. “Ashish appears to have put his injuries behind him. The selectors should certainly give him another chance,” said Akhtar.
Young at heart
Making a comeback from injury appears to have become second nature for the Delhi bowler. But Nehra says he has been singled out unfairly by his critics.
“Fast bowlers get injured in every part of the world. People like me have been unfortunate to have got a larger share of injuries than others but it can happen to anybody. Look at Ishant Sharma, who got injured right after that superb spell at Lord’s against England.”
Making his debut in 1999 in a Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo, Nehra has played 17 Tests and 120 ODIs for India. But there appeared to be a perennial question mark over his fitness.
Now, he seems to have resolved to defy his detractors. “I am just 35. If I work hard, I’ll play for another three to four years. Whether it is first-class cricket, or ODIs or T20, I’ll do the best I can. I am the same bowler. In fact, I am a better bowler and a better fielder than I was,” he reckons.
Surprisingly, Nehra’s last game in India colours was at the highest stage possible: in the 2011 World Cup match against Pakistan where he took two wickets in his 10 overs for a miserly 33 runs. After that he got injured and has never been picked since.
Nehra is as clueless about the reason as his admirers. “After the World Cup, India has picked maybe 25 fast bowlers, but they have never picked me. I don’t know why. But that is not in my control. What is in my control is performing and keeping fit,” says Nehra.
Fit in mind and body
People tend to confuse being fit with injury, says Nehra. “For instance, Usain Bolt is very fit. But while running, he too can get a torn hamstring. Once the hamstring heals, he runs again. I call somebody who can’t run five rounds or bowl three overs unfit. That’s what I’ve never been.
Even when I wasn’t playing for India, Pune Warriors picked me for $850,000 in 2011. Chennai Super Kings acquired me for R2 crore in an IPL auction where younger players such as RP Singh and Praveen Kumar went unsold. They must have seen value in me.”
From HT Brunch, September 28
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