NehraJi turns 40 - 3 Major highlights of his Career
Ashish Nehra, or NehraJi as the moniker goes, turns 40 today. A start-stop International career spanning over 18 years, Nehra was often unlucky to be plagued by injuries and fitness issues which thwarted his career from reaching the heights it potentially could have.
Having made his Test debut in 1999, and ODI debut in 2001, Nehra went on to appear in a total of 17 Test matches, 120 ODIs and 27 T20 Internationals, before hanging his boots in late 2017. A total of 235 International wickets in his kitty might not put him at par with his peers in terms of numbers, but the passion and excitement he brought to the cricket field with his presence has certainly left a legacy of his own.
There are three distinct highlights which define his International career – The 6/23 spell against England in World Cup 2003, A match-defining 2/33 against Pakistan in World Cup 2011 semi-finals, and the late-career resurgence in T20s in 2016. Here's a quick look at how these 3 moments defined his career.
6/23 against England – 2003 World Cup - A Nehraji Masterclass of Seam bowling
India had put up a competitive total of 250 at the Durban, in a match that had major implications for a spot in the Super Six. England had been jolted early and were 34/2 after 11 overs as Nehra took over the mantle. And from there he showcased a masterclass in seam bowling that left the English batsmen with no answers.
Bowling 10 overs on the trot, NehraJi finished with dream figures of 6/23, still the best figures by an Indian bowler in World Cups. His bowling was so accurate and efficient, that out of the 6 wickets, only Alec Stewart wasn’t dismissed behind the wicket. It was a spell of dreams for any quick.
2/33 against Pakistan – 2011 World Cup Semi-Finals
Ashish Nehra was picked in the 2011 World Cup Indian squad, but only as a back-up pacer to Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, and Sreesanth. Nehra had played just 2 matches in the group stages with extremely modest returns, but as the stakes got bigger and India clashed against Pakistan in the semis at Mohali, Nehra was called back upon to replace Ashwin in the team.
Chasing 261 to win, Pakistan were up to an enterprising start, but cometh the hour, cometh the man. Nehra produced an economical spell in the middle overs, choking the life out of Pakistan’s batting.
His 10 overs went for just 33, while also picking up two wickets at the death. Though his figures don’t do justice to the whole picture, Nehra’s spell was instrumental in putting the brakes on Pakistan’s charge, and eke out a 29-run victory for the team. The rest, as they say, is history.
2016 World T20 – The comeback
Yet another world tournament, yet another masterclass from Ashish Nehra. A World Cup more famous for the Carlos Braithwhite finish at the Eden Gardens, here was an unassuming 37-year old speedster charting a comeback to the Indian T20 team. Nehra forced his way into the side, thanks to stunning shows in the IPL seasons in 2015 and 2016 with 31 wickets.
NehraJi was instrumental in India’s run to the semis, as he picked up 5 wickets and gave his runs at only 5.94 per over. His proverbial experienced hand guiding the likes of Bumrah and Pandya in the tournament was a beautiful sight to watch as well. He last played an International T20 match against New Zealand, as he announced his retirement on 1st of November, 2017.
This comeback was truly monumental. Seeing an old warhorse comeback for his last ride into the sunshine was one of the most heartwarming cricketing stories of the last few years.
Though he wouldn’t ever be recalled as an all-time favourite or a legend of the sport, Ashish Nehra will always hold a special spot in the hearts of Indian and Cricket fans alike. A career that saw mighty crests, and long subdued troughs due to injuries, NehraJi’s career will also be one of the biggest “What If” scenarios of cricketing History.Modified 20 Dec 2019, 22:51 IST