Veteran Indian pacer, Ashish Nehra, yesterday confirmed his retirement from all forms of cricket. The seamer who consistently struggled with injuries decided that it was time to move on and hand over the baton to young guns of Indian cricket. Nehra will play his last match at his home ground in Feroz Shah Kotla stadium when Team India will take on New Zealand in the first T20I of the three-match series. Riddled with idiosyncrasies, inconsistencies and injuries, Ashish Nehra turned out to be one enigmatic character for Indian cricket: a tough nut to crack and an even tougher brain to figure.
Sporting a mile-wide smile wherever he sauntered in his torpid gait, Nehra managed to outlive several pacers of his generation with sheer determination, digging out enough motivation to return from exhausting surgeries and excruciating injuries. His journey could have been branded as a career of ‘could-haves’, but Nehra never seemed to bother, so much so, that he made us not bother. Looking back at his distinguished career, Nehra has made several defining moments. However, one spell that always stand out is his 6 for 23 against England in the ICC World Cup 2003.
Set for a tricky target of 251, England began amicably. Nehra, who had remained wicketless before the match, gave India the momentum by dismissing skipper Naseer Hussain. In the very next delivery, he dismissed Alec Stewart. After that, he also went on to dismiss Michael Vaughan Paul Collingwood. This tilted the match in India’s favour as half the English side was back in the hut. Any chance of a recovery was dealt a hammer blow when Nehra came back to dismiss Craig White and then took the sixth wicket by scalping Ronnie Irani.
Deservedly Nehra was awarded the man of the match. His figures of 6/23 still remain as the best bowling figures by an Indian bowler in World Cup history. Incredibly, even after another hamstring injury, he returned, this time as a 38-year-old, in the final leg of his career. This time, he found himself in a scenario where fitness was the prerogative, and creaking bones were being hurled aside. A man who played on his own terms, Nehra decided to retire, asking the management for a farewell game at Feroz Shah Kotla, the very ground where his legend began. He might not be the quickest, the most fashionable, or the fittest bowler to have played, but Ashish Nehra made sure that he won’t be a forgotten commodity in Indian cricket.