The Ashish Nehra Masterclass on Never Giving up
Ashish Nehra has given 18 years to Indian cricket. Here’s a throwback to his comebacks, injuries and high points.
He made his debut under Mohammad Azharuddin, helped India forget the horrors of the match-fixing controversy under captain Sourav Ganguly, lost years courtesy the Greg Chappell saga, returned to lift the World Cup under MS Dhoni’s leadership, and at 38, Ashish Nehra is now part of Virat Kohli’s dressing room – ready for a final goodbye.
Eighteen years of cricket, 12 surgeries, multiple comebacks, 164 international matches, and countless wins is what Nehraji has given us in his long career. As he crosses the finish line, let’s start from the beginning and relive the 18 years of Ashish Nehra.
For a man who’s aced the shorter format, it may come as a surprise that Ashish Diwansingh Nehra made his India debut in a Test match. Under Mohammad Azharuddin, he earned his first India cap in the now defunct Asian Test Championship. The match against Sri Lanka ended in a draw, Nehra picked 1/94, and India were knocked out of the event. Nehra was 19 then. He did not see the inside of the Indian dressing room for the next two years.
2001: The Dada Times
Sourav Ganguly then plucked Nehra out of the wilderness and gave him a shot on the tour of Zimbabwe in 2001. An ODI cap followed, and along with Harbhajan, Yuvraj, Sehwag, and Zaheer, India’s next-gen made the fans forget the dark clouds of the match-fixing controversy.
With Javagal Srinath leading the charge, Nehra and Zaheer came into their own and this period saw India stitch together possibly their best-ever pace attack. A Nehra special like no other was his performance in the 2003 World Cup match against England in Durban. His 6/23 is still the best figure by an Indian in a World Cup game.
But injuries would take their toll and Nehra knew the red ball was going to be no friend of his. He played his last Test for India in April 2004, during the tour to Pakistan.
2005: The Chappel Years
Nehra had another great year under Ganguly before Greg Chappell joined the Indian dressing room and he was made part of the exodus that followed.
2009: IPL Breakthrough
Injuries and politics had left him on the sidelines but the advent of T20 cricket and IPL was the shot in the arm Nehra needed. Four overs a match was almost custom-made to suit him, and the 2009 edition saw him pick 19 wickets in 13 matches at an average of 18.21, and MS Dhoni was not letting this opportunity pass. Nehra earned his comeback, and in June toured the West Indies for an ODI series. He also made his T20 international debut in December 2009 against Sri Lanka.
2011: The World Cup Win
Consistent performances over the next few years then saw Nehra emerge as India’s best fast bowler in Dhoni’s armoury. This phase stretched on to the 2011 World Cup at home where Nehra played a key role in the semi-final win against Pakistan. Though he got injured while fielding and went on to miss the final. That Pakistan match ended up becoming Nehra’s final ODI outing.
2015: Another Big IPL Year
That finger injury took Ashish off the team’s roster and his name was forgotten for the next four years. Yearly IPL appearances were made, till the 2015 season. Playing with Dhoni in Chennai Super Kings, Nehra picked 22 wickets in 16 games at an average of 20.40.
2016: The T20 Master
With the big World T20 at home in March, and the team’s bowlers taking a regular beating, Ashish Nehra was called up to rally the troops.
And that he did.
He started with the Australia tour in January and stretched on to the World T20 semi-final against West Indies in March, where India suffered a seven-wicket loss. The three months saw Nehra pick 21 wickets in 18 T20s at an average of 21.67, and it was thought that this was it. A semi-final World T20 exit should be a good farewell? Not.
2017: The Final Hurrah
Another year. Yet another comeback. He played the England T20s in January and was called-up for the Australia series. But now, it was finally the time, with Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar giving India big wins, Nehra knew it was time to make way for them.
Time to finally rest his body. Time to hang up his boots.
Cameraperson: Shiv Kumar Maurya
Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
(With inputs from Arun Gopalakrishnan)
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