A Quick Chat With Ashish Nehra: Last Game on Nov 1
“Before I spoke about my retirement, it is out. But it is not fake news, it’s actually the decision that I have taken,” says Ashish Nehra — the India fast bowler, who has been hitting the deck since 1999. The 38-year-old’s career is an amalgamation of grit, hard work, talent and belief. Despite injuries and surgeries, Nehra never gave up.
But like every sportsperson, Nehra has decided to call time on his illustrious career. He will bid goodbye to cricket in front of his home crowd at Feroz Shah Kotla ground, against New Zealand in the first T20 rubber of a three-match series, in New Delhi on November 1.
Throughout his career, Nehra came in flashes but whenever he did, it did count for Team India. Call it the 6/23 against England in Durban in World Cup 2003 or the 4/40 against Sri Lanka in Asia Cup, he made a difference.
The flashes, through several entries and exits, prolonged his career to 18 years — a rarity among Indian fast bowlers. When the speedster announced his second coming in the T20I series against Australia last year after a gap of five years, he knew his days were numbered. He chose to stick to the shortest format — which also meant he kept up with time. In fact, he is one of the few cricketers from the nineties who understood and also excelled in T20 cricket. His performances in the IPL negated his age and brought him back.
India’s new crop of bowlers — especially Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar — impressed the senior pro to the brim. Like a mentor, he thought it was time to step aside and make way. “The way Bhuvi and Bumrah are bowling, I felt it was right time to take the final call. And, there is nothing big coming up, like a World Cup,” added Nehra.
However, his swansong at his own backyard is no less than a showpiece event. “It can’t get bigger than playing in front of my home crowd in Delhi, the venue where I played my first Ranji game 20 years ago,” said Nehra, who has been particular about his commitment to domestic cricket. “People remember you only when you are playing for India or IPL now, forgetting that you keep playing domestic cricket day in and out. Only 15 players can play for India and at the most 25 across formats.”
Experts and former cricketers believe Nehra should wear the cap of a mentor for young pacers but he hasn’t decided his role. “Right now, I am thinking only of November 1, when I will be playing my last game. I haven’t thought about future yet,” the fast bowler said.
Though the veteran couldn’t pinpoint a particular memorable moment in his career spanning almost two decades, he reasoned that winning his skipper’s belief — from Mohammad Azharuddin, Sourav Ganguly, M.S. Dhoni to Virat Kohli — has been a special aspect of his career. “Every time the captain gives the ball to you, it is like he knows you are good enough to take wickets,” he said.
“I played most of my cricket under Sourav Ganguly, and Rahul (Dravid) and others. Each one of them has a different style and approach. Like in any human being, everyone has his own strengths and weaknesses,” he added, refusing to draw comparisons.
The left-arm pacer played 17 Tests (44 wickets), 120 ODIs (157 wickets) and 26 T20Is (34 wickets) in his career so far.