Indian cricket has over the years produced many legends and on Wednesday (November 1) India’s evergreen speedster Ashish Nehra will play his final international match against New Zealand (if selected) in a T20I at Delhi. It has raised a very pertinent question about Nehra’s standing in Indian cricket. Nehra had made his debut way back in 1999 under the captaincy of Mohammad Azharuddin and has over the years battled many injuries and has gone under the knife 12 times. The pacer from Delhi suffered injuries throughout his career and couldn’t quite play regularly due to that. Nehra always played with a smile on his face and battled pain and gave everything he had for the tri-colour.
Since 2000, after the whole match-fixing scandal and controversies, BCCI decided to appoint Sourav Ganguly as captain and Ganguly changed the face of Indian cricket forever. The Bengal tiger unearthed players such as Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Ashish Nehra was part of that young brigade. Indian team through youth and experience excelled as a unit and conquered many challenges. Nehra wasn’t a big unit or didn’t have an intimidating presence, but relied on talent and made an immediate impact in international cricket. The breakthrough performance by the lanky pace bowler came in the 2003 World Cup against England in a do or die game in the group stages at Kingsmead, Durban, when he bamboozled the English batting line up and picked up 6/23. Nehra right through the World Cup proved many people wrong, apart from the final against Australia at Wanderers, Johannesburg, when the whole bowling attack was taken to the cleaners as mighty Australians piled up 359/2 and India ended up losing the match by 125 runs.
The only regret Nehra and his fans would have that he never quite achieved the results that his potential had, but Nehra even after fighting self-demons and injuries still picked up 235 international wickets across formats. At the age of 38, Nehra’s enthusiasm and work ethic were second to none and he always put his hand up in difficult situations and never shied away from any challenge. The current crop of bowlers have lot to learn from Nehra about dedication and attitude regarding fast bowling.
Indian cricket has come a long way since Nehra’s debut and most of the players currently playing for India would still have been in their nappies or in their teens and Nehra would like to be remembered as a bowler who gave everything on the field and played the sport hard, but fair way. His lasting legacy would be the infectious smile and the humble attitude while playing the game. Every Indian fan would be feeling sad about the departure of Ashish Nehra, but as they say show must go on and Nehra, if selected, would be his old self against the Aussies in the decider at Hyderabad, and would try his best to make India win.