The current Indian selection panel, headed by Krishnamachari Srikkanth, whose term has run concurrently to BCCI secretary N Srinivasan’s, has been constantly accused of exhibiting a bias towards players from south India. Whether you believe this or not is one thing, but at least one non-south Indian --- Ashish Nehra --- must be thanking this panel.
After all, when the injury prone left-arm seamer was dropped from the team after an ODI against New Zealand in September 2005, few gave him a serious chance of making a comeback. His struggle with an assortment of injuries continued and even stringing together a complete season for Delhi was a big ask.
Had it not been for the Indian Premier League — a tournament usually associated with players picking up injuries and being ruled out from national duty — Nehra would never have found his way back into the reckoning. Bowling four overs per game proved no hassle and Nehra showed that he could still hit the high notes.
On Friday he struck early, trapping both Jesse Ryder and Brendon McCullum in front of the stumps, the second of which put Nehra in an elite band of Indian mediumpacers to pick up 100 ODI scalps. That he is only the eighth mediumpacer to do so (not counting Tendulkar and Ganguly) shows just how much India have struggled to produce mediumpacers who are consistent. What’s even more incredible is that Nehra’s strike rate of picking up a wicket once every 36.8 balls is only bettered by Ajit Agarkar, another bowler often accused of being inconsistent.
“Nehra’s a very determined player. There was a period where he did really well, but then injuries forced him out for a long while,” fellow left-arm seamer Chaminda Vaas told the Hindustan Times. “His determination has enabled him to get back to the side. Once you lose your place in the Indian side, it’s very hard to get back because the competition is so much. It is creditable that he has been able to use the platform the IPL provided and force his way back into the team.”
Just as Vaas became a master of exploiting sub-continental conditions long after pace had deserted him, Nehra has found a way to work things in his favour. A month before he was dropped from the Indian team in 2005, Nehra picked up 6 for 59 in the final of the Indian Oil Cup at this very ground.
India lost that game by 18 runs, but there’s no doubt Nehra will be reliving the good times should India make the final once more.