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Mohammad Azharuddin reveals how he played a key role in Ashish Nehra's international debut

Ram Kumar
1.78K   //    14 Oct 2017, 23:14 IST

Mohammad Azharuddin Ashish Nehra
Mohammad Azharuddin was Ashish Nehra's first captain in international cricket

What's the story?

Former Indian skipper Mohammad Azharuddin has shed light on his role in Ashish Nehra's foray into international cricket during the 1999 season. Reminiscing the left-arm pacer's debut eighteen years back, the elegant Hyderabadi revealed how he identified the fast bowler's enormous potential before expressing regret at the fact that Nehra managed to play only 17 Tests.

"When I took his (Nehra's) name in the selection committee meeting (in 1999), many people were surprised that I knew him. He was a budding cricketer and I thought he had the right attitude and deserved a chance. He bowled reasonably well in that Test. He was raw and got a wicket (that of Marvan Atapattu) as well", Azharuddin told Sportstar.

The 54-year old added, "I feel he really did well. You don’t like people to retire but that’s reality. He probably didn’t want his body to take (any) more beating. I knew about his retirement because I met him a few days back, before he joined the team for the ongoing series. He told me he was going to retire. I think he has taken a good decision. The way he played with so many injuries is remarkable. He is an outstanding bowler. But I think he should have played more Test cricket."

In the past...

Nehra made his debut for India under Azharuddin's captaincy during the second match of the 1999 Asian Test Championship against Sri Lanka at the Sinhalese Sports Club Ground in Colombo. The left-armer sent down as many as 28 overs on a docile surface and got his maiden international scalp when he trapped Marvan Atapattu in front.

The heart of the matter

Despite featuring in an 18-year career, Nehra's Test journey was restricted to just 17 matches owing to a plethora of recurring injuries. He picked up 44 wickets from those sporadic appearances at an average of 42.40 and strike-rate of 78.3.

Extra Cover: The Ashish Nehra School of Pain

It was in the limited-overs formats where Nehra enjoyed a relatively long and productive career. When it seemed like his international journey was over during the mid 2000s, the resilient fast bowler made a strong comeback and contributed immensely to India's triumphs in the 2010 Asia Cup as well as in the 2011 World Cup. After another resurgence in the shortest format of the game, the 38-year old announced that he will retire from all cricket after the first T20I against New Zealand.

What's next?

Nehra's final appearance will be in the opening game of the 3-match T20I series against the visiting Kiwis at his home venue of Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi on November 1.

Author's take

Considering that he is unlikely to be the on the selectors' radar for the next World T20, Nehra has timed his retirement to perfection. Even though he could have played more Tests if not for injuries, the seasoned left-armer has still managed to carve a commendable career at the international level.

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Ram Kumar
Someone who views sport as a metaphor for life.
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