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Dec 14, 2019-Saturday



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Saturday, Dec 14, 2019

Feroz Shah Kotla turns up in numbers for Ashish Nehra’s farewell

Fans have turned up in numbers at the Feroz Shah Kotla for his farewell international game, in the 1st T20I between India and New Zealand

india-vs-new-zealand-2017 Updated: Nov 01, 2017 22:37 IST
Sidharth Gulati
Sidharth Gulati
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Ashish Nehra is playing his last ever game for the Indian cricket team, in the 1st T20I against New Zealand at the Feroz Shah Kotla.
Ashish Nehra is playing his last ever game for the Indian cricket team, in the 1st T20I against New Zealand at the Feroz Shah Kotla.(BCCI)

It has been four years since Sachin Tendulkar bade a tearful adieu to cricket, with a packed Wankhede Stadium as well as the cricket world on TV watching. (1st T20I live updates | live scorecard)

Ashish Nehra ended the long wait on Wednesday for another India player to bow out on the field. The left-arm pacer’s achievements may be modest, but fans turned up in numbers at the Feroz Shah Kotla for his farewell game.

Virat Kohli’s team had never beaten New Zealand in five previous Twenty20s between the teams. But the sentiment was obvious, with all attention on the local hero, ending an 18-year India career.

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A hoarding above the Kotla sightscreen read ‘Ashish Nehra End’. A few moments later, the electronic sight-screen displayed ‘Farewell Ashish Nehra’. The two electronic screens then showed the bowling clips and statistics of the evening’s trending hashtag #nehraji.

“Ashish Nehra is playing,” announced Virat Kohli at the toss, ending any remaining doubts despite the selectors naming the 38-year-old in the squad for the Delhi game alone.

“Nineteen years as a fast bowler is a great achievement. One of the smartest guys I’ve played with, always loves helping youngsters. Sad to see him go,” added Kohli, whose photograph receiving a match accolade from the senior player has a special place in Delhi cricket.

Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and MS Dhoni were the first to step on the field for their drills as the crowd waited for Nehra.

READ | Ashish Nehra playing final India game at home vs New Zealand lauded by Kapil Dev

Warm reception

As soon as Ashish Nehra came out, the crowd went berserk. He was greeted by former teammate Murali Kartik, now a TV commentator. The duo was part of the Indian team when they retained the Border Gavasksar Trophy on the 2003-04 tour against Steve Waugh’s Australia.

Nehra was then seen having a chat with Virender Sehwag, with whom he had shared numerous scooter rides to practice as youngsters. The match is special for Sehwag as well as the Delhi cricket icon had a gate named after him.

When he joined the team huddle, Nehra was felicitated by Kohli and former skipper MS Dhoni.

Although Ashish Nehra’s request for a farewell game was acceded to, chief selector MSK Prasad had said it would be up to the team management to decide their best playing XI.

But Kohli made it clear at the toss that Nehra, who has reinvented himself as a T20 specialist in the last few seasons, would play as the third pacer.

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Kotla honour

In 2015, when Virender Sehwag, on announcing his retirement, was felicitated at Kotla during India-South Africa Test, the Delhi association had put up large metal hoardings at both ends giving his best Test performances. On Wednesday, Nehra got the honour.

Fans expressed their sentiment while his family members watched from a special corporate enclosure.

“Best Delhi Cricketer (Nehra). He’s a player I always want to watch,” said Amit, attending the game.

“Ashish Nehra is one of my favourite bowlers from the time he took six wickets against England in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa. I was in 10th or 12th standard. I used to follow him, how he performed, and his bowling action. So, it’s an emotional moment for me,” said a fan who described himself as Rao.

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One fans recalled his spell against Pakistan in 2004, when he defended nine runs in the last over of the Karachi ODI.

One fan summed up Nehra’s career crisply.

“Curtains down on a stop-start carrer that spanned India’s golden generation,” said Pranjal.

Ashish Nehra is not a brand like MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli. But his comebacks despite 12 surgeries and refusal to cut down on pace gives him a special place in Indian cricket.

Nehra, who finished with 0/29 in India’s 53-run win, was congratulated by the Indian and New Zealand team members as the entire Kotla rose to its feet for ‘Nehraji’.

He touched the feet of former India skipper Bishan Singh Bedi, who was sitting near the sidelines before the entire Indian team took a lap of honour, Delhi boys Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan hoisting Nehra on their shoulders.