Chennai Super Kings skipper MS Dhoni probably should send a thank you note to Delhi and the District Cricket Association (DDCA) for grooming and keeping ready their best bowler for IPL service.
Delhi has endured the whims of pace ace Ashish Nehra season after domestic season, but even investing money to ensure his full fitness has not helped get the kind of commitment CSK are enjoying from IPL’s leading bowler.
“The Nehra we know is different, one with a fragile body and even more fragile mind,” complains a senior DDCA official.
There is little doubt about Nehra’s talent and skills, provided he is fit. But that has seldom happened in domestic cricket, and he is 36.
And his hide-and-seek and lack of commitment has only added to DDCA’s woes. A glaring example came in November, 2012 at the Ferozeshah Kotla when Nehra bowled just six overs and pulled out, leaving Shikhar Dhawan, leading the game, with few options.
But DDCA hasn’t covered itself with distinction. It had a strange agreement with Nehra, allowing him to play every alternate fourday game to help him recover.
Nehra rarely honoured the deal. The selectors even warned that they would ignore him. Despite that, a couple of months later, Nehra was put on a plane to England to undergo surgery.
The tab, in January 2013, was picked up by DDCA, helping him regain fitness.
DDCA vice-president Chetan Chauhan says, “DDCA paid Rs. 13.5 lakh for his surgery, as per our records. He had been our leading bowler, so we had to invest in him.”
Was it worth the effort? Well, last season he turned up in casuals for a one-day match despite having made himself available, leaving selector Hari Gidwani fuming.
This season too, his name was announced before the Ranji season, but he was unavailable due to a fracture. This made the team think-tank wary of selecting him when he made himself available.
Players getting miraculously fit is nothing new. Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar too have often skipped matches for their states citing injury but got fit for IPL.
A DDCA official, being sarcastic, said that the "State associations get a lot of money because of IPL. So, if they spend some on the likes of Nehra and get them fit for franchises, they are only repaying a bit.”
While some Delhi cricket officials are upset with Nehra, others have turned fans. Sports secretary Sunil Dev, a staunch critic of Nehra in the past, says, “Nehra is a very large-hearted player.”