What’s the story?
Indian seamer Ashish Nehra has set his sights on the upcoming edition of the Champions Trophy as his ODI comeback tournament. The 37-year-old insisted that his experience and ability to bowl at different stages of the game could make him a valuable asset for the ICC event.
“I would love to play in the (2017) Champions Trophy. When you go to England (& Wales), you will take at least four fast bowlers in addition to two spinners. I know I can bowl anywhere – up front, in the middle overs and at (the) death (overs). I can also share the experience I have with the other young fast bowlers,” Nehra told ESPNcricinfo.
He reasoned, “I aim to play at least three matches to build up my match fitness. Fifty overs is a different challenge and Vijay Hazare is a good platform to test myself. I bowl about eight overs even in the nets while preparing for a T20 match. It is not about fitness. It is about the feel of playing in a 50-over match. Once I play these matches, I will be fit enough to play and good to go for the Champions Trophy.”
Nehra made his ODI debut against Zimbabwe back in 2001 under Sourav Ganguly’s captaincy. Troubled by a spate of intermittent injuries and the occasional loss in form, he has only played 119 more matches in the 50-over format and picked up 157 wickets in total at an average of 31.72 including two five-fors. The veteran’s last ODI appearance came in the 2011 World Cup semi-final against Pakistan in Mohali.
The heart of the matter
After a rather lengthy hiatus, Nehra had returned to the T20I team during the 3-match series against Australia early last year. Since then, he went on to feature in the Asia Cup T20 and the World T20, followed by a few bilaterals, with his wicket-taking prowess proving to be handy for India in the shortest format of the game.
Aside from delivering key breakthroughs with the ball, the seasoned campaigner was seen sharing his experience with the young crop of seam bowlers. For the Champions Trophy, the likes of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami (expected to regain fitness shortly), Umesh Yadav and Bhuvneshwar Kumar could form the pace attack, with all-rounder Hardik Pandya chipping in as well.
The 2017 Vijay Hazare Trophy will be the only 50-over tournament left for the Delhi fast bowler to make a case for himself. Beginning from the 25th, he would have matches against Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura, Kerala and Uttar Pradesh as well as a few more if his team qualifies for the knockout stages. India kick-start their Champions Trophy defence with an eagerly awaited clash against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 4th.
With age not on his side, Nehra’s chances to make it to the Champions Trophy appear to be quite slim. Taking into account the difference between T20Is and ODIs, there are considerable doubts surrounding his fitness level.
Even though his experience could be vital, India cannot afford a fast bowler who might not able to complete his full quota of 10 overs and is sloppy on the field too. Keeping one eye on the 2019 World Cup (which will also be held in the United Kingdom), emphasis should be placed on the younger group of seamers.