India news October 26, 2010

Ashish Nehra ready for Test comeback

ESPNcricinfo staff

Ashish Nehra, one of India's first-choice seamers in the shorter versions of the game, has made himself available for Test cricket, six and a half years since he last turned out in whites at the highest level.

"I had never said that I will not play Test cricket again," Nehra told PTI. "It was just that initially after my comeback, I wanted to concentrate on the ODIs and Twenty20s. Now that I am back in the national side for one and a half years, I feel confident to make a comeback in the Test fold. I will like to make myself available for selection during the South Africa Test series."

A spate of injuries in the mid-2000s pushed Nehra out of the Indian team, but he clawed back into the reckoning with a watershed performance in the 2009 IPL in South Africa, where he stood third in the wickets chart with 18. He has since become a regular in India's ODI plans and sporadically featured in Twenty20 internationals. His susceptibility to injuries, however, has kept him out of the Test team.

Since his international comeback in June 2009, Nehra has played 36 one-dayers, picking 54 wickets at an average just under 30. More importantly, he has not missed a single game due to fitness issues or injuries, and Nehra hopes that he can carry that durability into the longest version. He is headed to the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore to follow a fitness program that will prepare him for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

"I am planning to play one Ranji Trophy for Delhi before the New Zealand ODI series to check how my body is holding. I am enjoying my cricket at the moment and I don't see any reason why I can't make a comeback.

"For me the top-most priority is the World Cup next year. That is why I have been so choosy about playing in the longer version. But after World Cup, there is lot of Test cricket to be played as India would be playing against England, West Indies. I will like to again play Test cricket with the same intensity that I used to at the start of my career."

While Nehra is keen to return to Tests, it remains to be seen whether the selectors, who have treated India's fast-bowling talents on a case-by-case-basis, will include him in their plans. Zaheer Khan is currently the only seamer who walks into the side in all three formats, but, of late, he has been used selectively in a bid to prolong his career. Nehra, on the other hand, has slotted well into the one-day side, with his ability to move the new ball and deliver yorkers in the closing stages. Ishant Sharma and Sreesanth, who have been lacklustre in the shorter versions, have been persisted with for Test cricket. Both bowlers have reposed that faith with strong performances in recent times, and Nehra will have to stave off competition from them to enter the Test side.