India's death-overs exponent Ashish Nehra expects fast bowlers to play a critical role in the upcoming World Cup even though the wickets of the subcontinent are considered spinner-friendly.
The lanky left-arm pacer, who made a sensational comeback to the team in 2009 after battling injuries for four years, says Indian pacers have performed well in home conditions in the last couple of years and that should encourage them to do well in the mega event.
"The fast bowlers will play an important role in the World Cup even though the pitches in the subcontinent generally are on the slower side. Conditions will be tough for fast bowlers what with the rules like ball change after 34 overs, and the powerplays being loaded against them. I think the challenge will be to restrict our opponents to below 300 runs.
"Our fast bowling attack has done well at home in the last couple of years. Zak (Zaheer Khan) has been there. Munaf (Patel) bowled well in the South Africa series and Praveen (Kumar) is really good with the new ball. All we need is to pool our resources to come good," Nehra told IANS in an interview.
As for himself, Nehra says he revels in pressure situations.
"There will be pressure, but honestly, I enjoy bowling in pressure situations. It brings the best in me. I have done that for India. I enjoy taking the responsibility in the death overs and the power plays. I am more experienced and patient now. I know how to bowl in a particular situation."
"I know what the team expects of me. If I can take a wicket by giving away 10 runs then I will go for it. I have managed that even in bad times. I will prefer taking four wickets giving away 60 runs, taking one or two wickets upfront, rather than taking two wickets for 40 runs."
Nehra shares a special bond with his bowling partner and "friend" Zaheer, who was a constant source of inspiration to him when he was out of the team.
"Everybody knows how Zak has performed. He is brilliant with the new ball as well as the old. It helps to have someone like him at the other end. He takes the pressure off. I think we complement each other well. He is a dear friend who has taught me to back myself."
Nehra says "the difficult period" of his life was when he was out of the team, but that "actually" had been the most fruitful.
The days in the wilderness helped Nehra grow mentally tough and develop a positive attitude.
Nehra says now he has understood that a comeback is possible from any situation and he carries that "belief" every time he steps onto the cricketing field.
"It was a difficult period but it taught me more than what I learnt in my previous 27 years. I got to know who my real friends are as I travelled to Australia, England, Germany as part of my rehab process. You get so many congratulatory messages when you take four-five wickets, but none when your figures read 10-0-80-0. I am a sort of person who would like to send messages to players when they are down," Nehra said.
"When I was out of the team, I was 27. I was struggling with injuries. My ankle used to hurt a lot, there were days when the pain used to be excruciating. But age was on my side and I was mentally strong. Today when I have a bad spell, I know I can always comeback in the next one. I am now a great believer in comebacks."
Since his recall to the ODI team in June 2009, Nehra has performed consistently in tough situations, taking 63 wickets in 45 ODIs
"I never gave up hope. I needed just one good series and it happened in Sri Lanka."
The left-arm pacer says time has taught him to take the vagaries of success and failure with equanimity.
"I have realised that when you perform well consistently you are not noticed, but if you have two bad games, like it happened to me in the recent South Africa series, you are in the limelight. But I enjoy the confidence of the coach and the captain and it does not bother me one bit what others think. I know playing for India is not as difficult as staying in the team."
Ask him about his career-best 6-23 against England which is also one of India's finest World Cup moments and Nehra's face lights up.
"What can I say about that match, it is one my best cricketing moments. It was a crunch game for us and I cherished the wickets of Alex Stewart and Michael Vaughan. We lost the final in 2003 and I hope this time we can cross the final hurdle at home."