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The curious case of Ashish Nehra

india Updated: Oct 08, 2011 22:45 IST
Aakash Chopra

Ten overs, 33 runs and two wickets, what do you make of these bowling figures? Aren't they impressive? And what if these figures came against archrivals Pakistan while defending a modest 260 on a good batting surface? Doesn’t it make them even more impressive? Add another bit of detail — what if the match was the semifinal of the World Cup?

Considering the scenario, these figures have the potential to catapult someone’s career.

Ironical then that the man who claimed them hasn’t played a single international match since then. Yes, he fractured his fingers while diving forward to take a catch in the same game that ruled him out for a while, but it’s been six months since that injury. I’m talking about Ashish Nehra, the veritable pariah of Indian cricket, at least for now.

Impressive Comeback
After dropping off the radar for four years, Nehra returned in 2009, took 65 wickets in 48 games at an impressive strike rate of 33. Believe it or not, he’s been India’s fittest fast bowler in this period, and most effective too. He was an integral part of India’s road to the World Cup victory. As baffling as it is, he has not been considered, even after recovering from an injury. It wasn’t he who declared himself fit, but the physiotherapist at the NCA who issued the certificate.

Perhaps, after the English fiasco the selectors aren’t willing to take a chance with any player without testing his match fitness. But then why isn’t he given a chance to prove his fitness? He isn’t picked even for the Challenger Trophy. Is there more to it than meets the eye?

Different standards
That brings me to the interesting selection of Rahul Sharma, who’s been picked for the first two ODIs against England. After a good IPL season with the Pune Warriors, he was picked to play in the Emerging Players tournament in Australia.

Unfortunately, he missed the tour due to an injury. Now, he didn’t play any first-class cricket in the interim and yet found himself in the India team. Yes, he was picked for the Rest of India team for the Irani Cup, but the selection for the India team was done before the first ball was bowled at Jaipur.

Also, he has a rather unimpressive first-class record for Punjab (17 wickets from 10 matches). So, was he picked to play for Rest of India to test his fitness? Or is he a potential bowler for Test match cricket? If it was the former, why was he picked in the India team before he proved his match fitness, and if it was the latter, how do we justify his selection when his own state has played him in only 10 games in five seasons?

Different rules for different people? www.cricketaakash.com