India cricket April 30, 2013

Ashish Nehra, we are grateful

Kshitij Mohta, India
He may have been injury-prone and clumsy, but Ashish Nehra made some unforgettable contributions to Indian cricket
22

Ashish Nehra has never been a headliner. I don't remember anybody telling me that he was their favourite bowler. Given his lanky build and gentle run-up, it's always been difficult to say where he generates his pace from. When he's batting or fielding, you always fear the worst as the ball heads towards him. And before Rohit Sharma and Ravindra Jadeja became popular, Ashish Nehra had been the butt of a number of joke trolls.

Generally operating in the shadow of Zaheer Khan and Irfan Pathan over the past decade, Nehra quietly went about the job of 'keeping the pressure on at the other end'. His bowling plan seemed relatively simple - good length on off stump, with the ability to move the ball both ways. Here and there, he punched above his weight - the 6-23 against England in the 2003 World Cup comes to mind - bowled one of the fastest deliveries by an Indian, and took 4-40 in the Asia Cup final. On a number of occasions, he was given the task of bowling the last over.

I best remember Nehra for his decisive spells in the biggest games of them all - India v Pakistan. He regularly got hit for a few runs, but more than made up for that with a match-turning over and his trademark 'aeroplane' celebration. First up in the 2003 World Cup, in a game better known for the upper cuts played by Tendulkar and Sehwag, he cleaned up a dangerous looking Saeed Anwar with a perfect yorker.

Then, in the memorable 2004 tour of Pakistan, when India scored 349 in the first ODI and Pakistan lost two early wickets, the game seemed to be over. Inzamam-ul-Haq carved a magnificent 122 to bring Pakistan back into the game and into a winning position. However, once Murali Kartik dismissed him, the game was in the balance again. Mohammad Kaif pulled off a brilliant catch in the penultimate over, leaving Nehra to defend eight runs in the over of his life against Moin Khan. In a display that today's pace spearheads would be proud of, Nehra hit the blockhole consistently and didn't allow Moin to lift him over extra cover, with the coach Javed Miandad gesticulating wildly. With six required off the last ball, Nehra enjoyed his fair share of luck as a full toss was hit straight up and caught at cover.

In the 2011 World Cup against Pakistan, he again proved his doubters wrong. After a poor last over against South Africa, he was a surprise selection for this game. His first spell kept the openers quiet, but then came a defining moment. Diving to take a catch at midwicket, Nehra injured a finger but came back to finish his quota of overs at the death. He was rewarded with two wickets and finished as the most economical bowler in the game. Unfortunately, he could not play the final due to a broken finger.

My favourite moment comes from a Test Match, a format he was not too successful in. With the series tied at 1-1, India won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat in the decider at Rawalpindi. The Indian bowlers made good use of the conditions and picked up three early wickets, however the danger man Inzamam was still at the crease and it required a moment of brilliance to dismiss him. Nehra got one to come back into his pads at a good length, but the umpire's finger would just not go up for the plumbest of LBWs. The best of bowlers would have been distraught. Nehra, though, came back and landed the next delivery in exactly the same spot. This time though he got the ball to move away, and a dazed Inzy nicked it to the keeper. Test match bowling at its best.

For these wonderful moments against Pakistan, to the ever-smiling Nehra we shall be most grateful.

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  • on April 30, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    Well, The writer has said it all. After Javagal Srinath, he is the bowler who could collapse the opponent. He was very good when he comes to scene on Zimbabwe tour, getting 18 wickets in his first overseas series. He was also great against the Ausseis in 2003 tour, when India drew them 1-1. He has given so much to Indian Team. I still feel that he is one of the most under rated bowler after Ajit Agarkar....

  • Ranta on April 30, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    Phew. Finally an article appreciating a genuinely good bowler. He is one of those you just wished had better fitness an asset to have in team. What will always be cherished is that spell in WC-2013 & Last over in Indo-Pak match 2004.

    He is a lesson to Indian cricket board. If we want good bowlers to stay we also need to work on their fitness. Don't leave it to them only. Go that extra mile. How many examples do we need now.

    We can not complain we don't get good bowlers. They just don't last is the issue. This Guy is a quality bowler. Sharp accurate and swing. Good on you Ashu made good use of whatever chances you got. You will not be forgotten.

  • SpaMaster on May 4, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    First of all, I should thank the writer for writing a piece on one of my favourite bowlers ever, Nehra. Yes, Nehra has fans and I am one of them. I think injuries hampered him a lot and his bowling action probably has something to do with it. But Tendulkar spotted Nehra as a very promising one under his captaincy when India toured Sri Lanka 15 years or so back. I was so glad when he made a valiant come back after Vengsarkar once joked even Vengsarkar played some time back when asked about Nehra's come back. That South Africa IPL gave a chance for Nehra to bring himself back into national contention. He capped it off with magnificent showing against Pakistan in WC semi-final. He would have been an automatic choice for the final if not for his injury. A well and truly earned World Cup victory in the end for Nehra!

  • on May 2, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    I still remember Inzamam`s dismissal at Rawalpindi. That was pure class!!!

  • on May 2, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    Only if he was not bogged down by fitness issues.

  • Awadhwal on May 2, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    Thanks Kshitij Mohta for coming with an article, which describes Nehra's brilliance Pace and Tenacity. He should have been on tours of England and Australia 2011, he would have performed better than others selected. Same act of negligence has been happening with likes of Kaif, Uthappa, Ajit Agarkar, Jp yadav for last decade.

  • agarkarno1 on May 2, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    Nehra is a lethal bowler when on song. Any batsman would fear to face him especially the hardhitters like Gayle, Dishan, cant just swing their bat at him as he is accurate . He along with Munaf were the main pillars in bowling dept during our 2011 world cup victor. Dont know why both were ignored after that

  • Longmemory on May 2, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    While I agree with everything the author says here. and appreciate where he's coming from, I must also note that this is what has happened to India's bowling over the years: we have bowlers who have moments, not careers. For Ishant, its that spell against Ponting; for Sreesanth, its that one ball against Kallis; for Irfan Pathan, its those opening tests in Australia when he looked like Wasim Akram; for Munaf, its those early tests when he seemed genuinely quick - and so on and on. We are reduced to counting spells, balls and at best, a test or two. Unfortunately, it takes 2 or 3 top class bowlers who can consistently take 2-3 wickets every innings, especially top order batsmen, over a sustained number of years, that makes for a winning side.

  • InsaneInsaan on May 1, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    he did well in the last 5 overs with zak while defending 414.against sl, which would otherwise be an embaressment...... they defended 32 in last 5 ovrs

  • on May 1, 2013, 15:40 GMT

    I think physically he is not strong enough to be a pace bowler and despite that he could bowl at good speed. The more bowling he did, he got injured and sat out. Then coming back from injury and reach peak form took a while and the injury cycle started again. Very unlucky.

  • on April 30, 2013, 21:35 GMT

    Well, The writer has said it all. After Javagal Srinath, he is the bowler who could collapse the opponent. He was very good when he comes to scene on Zimbabwe tour, getting 18 wickets in his first overseas series. He was also great against the Ausseis in 2003 tour, when India drew them 1-1. He has given so much to Indian Team. I still feel that he is one of the most under rated bowler after Ajit Agarkar....

  • Ranta on April 30, 2013, 20:41 GMT

    Phew. Finally an article appreciating a genuinely good bowler. He is one of those you just wished had better fitness an asset to have in team. What will always be cherished is that spell in WC-2013 & Last over in Indo-Pak match 2004.

    He is a lesson to Indian cricket board. If we want good bowlers to stay we also need to work on their fitness. Don't leave it to them only. Go that extra mile. How many examples do we need now.

    We can not complain we don't get good bowlers. They just don't last is the issue. This Guy is a quality bowler. Sharp accurate and swing. Good on you Ashu made good use of whatever chances you got. You will not be forgotten.

  • SpaMaster on May 4, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    First of all, I should thank the writer for writing a piece on one of my favourite bowlers ever, Nehra. Yes, Nehra has fans and I am one of them. I think injuries hampered him a lot and his bowling action probably has something to do with it. But Tendulkar spotted Nehra as a very promising one under his captaincy when India toured Sri Lanka 15 years or so back. I was so glad when he made a valiant come back after Vengsarkar once joked even Vengsarkar played some time back when asked about Nehra's come back. That South Africa IPL gave a chance for Nehra to bring himself back into national contention. He capped it off with magnificent showing against Pakistan in WC semi-final. He would have been an automatic choice for the final if not for his injury. A well and truly earned World Cup victory in the end for Nehra!

  • on May 2, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    I still remember Inzamam`s dismissal at Rawalpindi. That was pure class!!!

  • on May 2, 2013, 9:22 GMT

    Only if he was not bogged down by fitness issues.

  • Awadhwal on May 2, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    Thanks Kshitij Mohta for coming with an article, which describes Nehra's brilliance Pace and Tenacity. He should have been on tours of England and Australia 2011, he would have performed better than others selected. Same act of negligence has been happening with likes of Kaif, Uthappa, Ajit Agarkar, Jp yadav for last decade.

  • agarkarno1 on May 2, 2013, 6:07 GMT

    Nehra is a lethal bowler when on song. Any batsman would fear to face him especially the hardhitters like Gayle, Dishan, cant just swing their bat at him as he is accurate . He along with Munaf were the main pillars in bowling dept during our 2011 world cup victor. Dont know why both were ignored after that

  • Longmemory on May 2, 2013, 4:15 GMT

    While I agree with everything the author says here. and appreciate where he's coming from, I must also note that this is what has happened to India's bowling over the years: we have bowlers who have moments, not careers. For Ishant, its that spell against Ponting; for Sreesanth, its that one ball against Kallis; for Irfan Pathan, its those opening tests in Australia when he looked like Wasim Akram; for Munaf, its those early tests when he seemed genuinely quick - and so on and on. We are reduced to counting spells, balls and at best, a test or two. Unfortunately, it takes 2 or 3 top class bowlers who can consistently take 2-3 wickets every innings, especially top order batsmen, over a sustained number of years, that makes for a winning side.

  • InsaneInsaan on May 1, 2013, 18:42 GMT

    he did well in the last 5 overs with zak while defending 414.against sl, which would otherwise be an embaressment...... they defended 32 in last 5 ovrs

  • on May 1, 2013, 15:40 GMT

    I think physically he is not strong enough to be a pace bowler and despite that he could bowl at good speed. The more bowling he did, he got injured and sat out. Then coming back from injury and reach peak form took a while and the injury cycle started again. Very unlucky.

  • on May 1, 2013, 10:21 GMT

    Ever-smiling? I would never keep the wickets to him. Still remember the abuses he hurled at Dhoni and others before him. At least I would put tape on his mouth before he comes on to bowl.

    He has a very bad temperament towards the audience as well. Recently in Kotla, while he was standing near the fine leg fence, everyone were rooting for him. But he never even bothered to look back and appreciate the cheers. Then of course, being the Delhi crowd that it is, once he started getting hammered, he received a grand welcome(with abuses) back to the fence. Never seen this being done to any other DD player. Not even Irfan Pathan who usually goes for plenty.

    But yes, he was a very good bowler who could have done wonders to his career had it not been cut short of injuries. I wish he had done something about his attitude and fitness earlier.

  • Pundrick on May 1, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    Thanks for writing this up. He is one of my favorite for his competitiveness and sharp bowling.

  • SamRoy on May 1, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    Nehra was my favourite bowler between 2003-2004. I thought he could swing it both ways and at pace (138-142 kmph). That's the best one can do. His physical and mental frailties prevented him from becoming a good test bowler. But he was more talented bowler than Zaheer, it's just that he couldn't convert his talent into result at the test level.

  • Jacobchikku on May 1, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    Nehra did pretty well through out his career but the fitness issues let him down, but when ever he comes back he never holds back and still i think he is bowling at the same pace which he used to do in 2003.

  • on May 1, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    There was a time in cricket when a Bowlers role was just to bowl and he is a good infield then it's an add on package for the Team. Nehra is a good Swing bowler but he cannot be in team for his 6-23 against England in World Cup 2003 also the situation (Overcast Condition, Wet Outfield in SA) helped him. What should I say about his fielding? I always thought that team (Indian Team) should be better if they will be playing with 10 players and Nehra should bowl only, Misfiled is not acceptable but if there will no fielder and if bowl goes for four is absolutely OK. His Poor form and Injuries made his life more difficult.

  • Pathiyal on May 1, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    while i seriously consider him as one of the great bowlers the country has ever produced i am still surprised by his disappearing acts when we need him most. he goes into exile too soon :-) comes back when we start to forget him come back with a bang, goes back again. he is not doing a fair thing.

  • on May 1, 2013, 6:13 GMT

    You are incorrect mr Mohta.Every batsmen's favorite bowler is Nehra no doubt.

  • YogifromNY on May 1, 2013, 2:48 GMT

    Excellent short piece, Kshitij! I did not know all the moments of great performance by Nehra that you have narrated above, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about them. Thank you.

  • on April 30, 2013, 19:34 GMT

    Yes, he was unceremoniously dropped after the world cup. Nehra thrives only in swinging conditions and that is why he was so successful in South Africa. He should be taken to England for Champions Trophy where he will be more than handful.

  • on April 30, 2013, 18:48 GMT

    Nehra never got the credit what he deserved. He bowled and won us the game with an injurd hand in the world cup semi final against Pakistan. He was the best bowler in that match. Great bowling figures.

  • on April 30, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    This is really nice article about a cricketer who had done everything in correct manner to guide his team towards victory & still don't get the share of credit he deserves. In modern era a fully fit Nehera has always been skipper's first choice in death over & he had hardly proved his captain wrong.

  • on April 30, 2013, 17:45 GMT

    Thnks for this article. Nehra was the best of the lot when he played. Zaheer used to keep going off injured. Nehra used to produce awesome magic balls now and then.

  • on April 30, 2013, 17:45 GMT

    Thnks for this article. Nehra was the best of the lot when he played. Zaheer used to keep going off injured. Nehra used to produce awesome magic balls now and then.

  • on April 30, 2013, 18:39 GMT

    This is really nice article about a cricketer who had done everything in correct manner to guide his team towards victory & still don't get the share of credit he deserves. In modern era a fully fit Nehera has always been skipper's first choice in death over & he had hardly proved his captain wrong.

  • on April 30, 2013, 18:48 GMT

    Nehra never got the credit what he deserved. He bowled and won us the game with an injurd hand in the world cup semi final against Pakistan. He was the best bowler in that match. Great bowling figures.

  • on April 30, 2013, 19:34 GMT

    Yes, he was unceremoniously dropped after the world cup. Nehra thrives only in swinging conditions and that is why he was so successful in South Africa. He should be taken to England for Champions Trophy where he will be more than handful.

  • YogifromNY on May 1, 2013, 2:48 GMT

    Excellent short piece, Kshitij! I did not know all the moments of great performance by Nehra that you have narrated above, and thoroughly enjoyed reading about them. Thank you.

  • on May 1, 2013, 6:13 GMT

    You are incorrect mr Mohta.Every batsmen's favorite bowler is Nehra no doubt.

  • Pathiyal on May 1, 2013, 7:47 GMT

    while i seriously consider him as one of the great bowlers the country has ever produced i am still surprised by his disappearing acts when we need him most. he goes into exile too soon :-) comes back when we start to forget him come back with a bang, goes back again. he is not doing a fair thing.

  • on May 1, 2013, 8:33 GMT

    There was a time in cricket when a Bowlers role was just to bowl and he is a good infield then it's an add on package for the Team. Nehra is a good Swing bowler but he cannot be in team for his 6-23 against England in World Cup 2003 also the situation (Overcast Condition, Wet Outfield in SA) helped him. What should I say about his fielding? I always thought that team (Indian Team) should be better if they will be playing with 10 players and Nehra should bowl only, Misfiled is not acceptable but if there will no fielder and if bowl goes for four is absolutely OK. His Poor form and Injuries made his life more difficult.

  • Jacobchikku on May 1, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    Nehra did pretty well through out his career but the fitness issues let him down, but when ever he comes back he never holds back and still i think he is bowling at the same pace which he used to do in 2003.

  • SamRoy on May 1, 2013, 8:52 GMT

    Nehra was my favourite bowler between 2003-2004. I thought he could swing it both ways and at pace (138-142 kmph). That's the best one can do. His physical and mental frailties prevented him from becoming a good test bowler. But he was more talented bowler than Zaheer, it's just that he couldn't convert his talent into result at the test level.