"I thought you would be in yellow," I say as Ashish Nehra approaches our camera set-up.

"IPL season over," he chuckles. "Yellow is packed away."

I am at the Sonnet club nets in Delhi to meet Nehra. He feels at home here. His first coach, Tarak Sinha, is around, putting kids from different age groups through their paces. It's only 9am but the summer sun is already blazing down.

It has been less than a week since Nehra finished a stunning IPL season for Chennai Super Kings, taking 22 wickets in 16 matches. He won three Man-of-the-Match awards - only David Warner with four claimed more. Nehra took five three-wicket hauls - only Sohail Tanvir in 2008 took as many in one season. For a while Nehra even held the purple cap as the tournament's highest wicket-taker.

Over the course of the IPL, he didn't just take wickets, he also became a rage online. His childhood friend Virender Sehwag repeatedly took to Twitter, complimenting "Nehra ji" for his incisive spells, and fans followed suit.

"There were so many people calling me Nehra ji," he smiles. "I came to know after a couple of days why they are calling me that. Viru has always called me Nehra ji. This time he tweeted, so everybody knows."

Nehra doesn't do Twitter. Or Facebook. His Super Kings coach Stephen Fleming downloaded Whatsapp on his phone, just so he would respond to messages in time. "To be honest, even till now I don't know how to send an email," he confesses. Basically Ashish Nehra lives in a cocoon. A cocoon of his own choosing.

"I don't know what has happened. Whether it is my face, I don't know. I'm happy that my wife likes my face"
Nehra on being ignored by the India selectors

It has been over four years since Nehra played for India. His last international appearance came in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup, against Pakistan, where he claimed 2 for 33 in his 10 overs. A finger injury kept him out of the final in Mumbai, but he celebrated that win with the team, went to the felicitations over the following week, and since then has waited for a comeback in vain. The selectors haven't called.

"I don't know what has happened. Whether it is my face, I don't know. I'm happy that my wife likes my face," he laughs.

"If you look at the number of people who have played one-dayers or T20s after the 2011 World Cup, you will be surprised. I am not saying they are not good, but I am the only one who has not played. They have tried 20 or 25 bowlers but not Ashish Nehra."

Surely he's exaggerating? I look up quick bowlers and seamers who have played for India in T20s and ODIs since the 2011 World Cup. The number is 19.

Ashok Dinda. Irfan Pathan. Bhuvneshwar Kumar. L Balaji. Mohammed Shami. Vinay Kumar. Zaheer Khan. Praveen Kumar. Munaf Patel. Mohit Sharma. Ishant Sharma. Umesh Yadav. Parvinder Awana. Stuart Binny. Varun Aaron. Dhawal Kulkarni. Jaydev Unadkat. RP Singh. Abhimanyu Mithun.

"In the 2011 England series, I was fit for the one-day matches," Nehra says. "I have been fit and playing domestic cricket. It is not easy for a 36-year-old. If somebody tells me this is what you are not doing right, I will work hard on that and improve. Till now, I don't know what exactly happened and nobody ever told me. I was the highest wicket-taker between 2008 and 2011 by far. In fact, I was among the top three in the world."

A quick check of the numbers again backs up Nehra's claim. From June 2009 to March 2011, he played 48 one-day internationals in his most productive period as an international cricketer. He claimed 65 wickets at an average of 32.64 and an economy rate of 5.85. Only Shakib Al Hasan of Bangladesh claimed more wickets, 69, in this period. Harbhajan Singh, with 47, and Zaheer Khan, with 46, were the next best Indian bowlers over this time. In essence, Nehra wasn't doing much wrong - he was taking wickets and, at 32, was at the peak of his powers.

"I always felt in the last four years that I was good enough," he insists. "It was not like they were playing only four or five fast bowlers and the team was settled."

The Nehra story, though, can never be only about the numbers. Since his international debut in 1999, a frail body has been a persistent stumbling block. Back, fingers, ankle, hand, ribs - you name it, Nehra has injured it. His memorable six-for against England in Durban at the 2003 World Cup was delivered in throbbing pain after his ankle flared up the previous night.

Yet, somehow, he has gone on. "People who started with me have now stopped playing," Nehra says. He admits there have been days when he has thought of giving it all up. But he has soldiered on nevertheless.

"We went to South Africa just before the [2011] World Cup," he recalls. "Those six weeks I struggled with my back, even during the World Cup. We were playing a practice game against New Zealand in Chennai and I was thinking, 'I am going home and not playing this World Cup.' But I made up my mind [to stay]. I was struggling badly but I am happy that I didn't leave and we ended up winning the World Cup."

While he has fought and often conquered a rebellious body, Nehra has never done too well in the battle of perceptions. Mention his name and the guffaws are almost instantaneous among Indian cricket followers - liability in the field, can't bat to save his life, can break down at any time, and much worse.

There has never been a clamour for a recall in the national media over the last four years. Neither has the team management pushed for a call-up while. Other players from Nehra's generation have been given their opportunities meanwhile. He has watched silently from the sidelines, refusing to change his methods.

"The only complaint that I have against the media is that they don't show the right picture," he says. "There is a word called responsibility. Media should be responsible and should write the right thing. I am sure everyone has likes and dislikes and you might think someone is a better bowler, but in the larger picture, they should show or write the truth.

"There were times when Dravid and Srinath would tell me things as a 22-year-old, but at that time I thought I knew everything. The minute they turned their back, I would think, 'They do not know anything'"

"I have always been nice to everybody and have given my 100%. There were times where I was not bowling at my best but still I was a part of the team. Sometimes you do not do well for a couple of weeks or months and people in domestic cricket might be doing better, but you are playing. In the last four-five years, I'm bowling really well but I'm not in the team. Those things will happen, there will be regrets, but at the same time you will learn things."

Regret is a word that often returns to our conversation. Turning down an offer from coach Gary Kirsten and captain MS Dhoni to revive his Test career in 2009 because he wasn't quite sure if his body would hold up is among the major ones. It meant his time in whites lasted a mere 17 Tests and ended at the age of 25. He did play six Ranji Trophy matches in the 2013-14 season, taking 28 wickets at an average of less than 20, but Nehra knew the ship had sailed as far as his long-format career was concerned.

"I should have worked harder, because I was only 30 then," he said recalling the conversation with Dhoni and Kirsten. "If I could play six first-class games a year in six weeks at the age of 34, definitely I could have done the same for India as well. I could have played another 40 to 50 Test matches.

"There were times when Rahul Dravid and Javagal Srinath would tell me things as a 22-year-old, but at that time I thought I knew everything. The minute they turned their back, I would think, 'They do not know anything' - not every time but once out of five times. Today I realise it was me who was wrong and not them. I can only give my experience now to the youngsters.

"There were times when the team bus left at 8am and I would set an alarm for 7.50am. Now I set the alarm at 6.45. I need one hour, as I know I have to do things systematically. It is a discipline thing and you know the amount of hard work you need on the field. You know your body better."

While Nehra has learnt to take care of his body and has always prided himself on being strong mentally, there are some compromises he has refused to make. Observers have noted in wonder, most noticeably at the IPL this season, how his pace hasn't dropped - unlike that of some of his peers, who have chosen this route to extend their careers.

"My action puts a lot of strain on the body, but I get that extra zip," he says. "I'm a 135-plus bowler and I have not tried to bowl at 130. If you can bowl quickly, you should. You should not be wayward, though. It's better to bowl good line and length at 135 rather than bowling all over the place at 145. It never came to my mind to slow down.

"When you are above 33, you make alterations in practice. I don't bowl or field for one hour in the nets now. You decide to save yourself for the ground. I can't practice for five hours non-stop like an 18- or 20-year-old. You have to be smart."

Nehra is also among a rare breed of quick bowlers in the modern game who are able to deliver the yorker effectively. During the IPL, he produced the delivery almost at will. His formula is an old cliché - practice makes perfect.

"You want to practise the yorker because the margin of error is very less," he explains. "In fact, in T20 and 50-over games, people are hitting yorkers better than length deliveries. Because of the two new balls at each end in one-day matches and in T20s, the ball is only about 15 overs old. There is no reverse swing, so the ball does not dip and it becomes difficult for the bowler.

"Look at Dale Steyn. He doesn't bowl the yorker well. If you look at his record in the IPL in the past two years, he has struggled. Look at Morne Morkel. South Africa lost the World Cup semi-final despite having a great team because they didn't have bowlers who could bowl the yorker, though it was a small ground and there was rain around. All of them were good bowlers upfront or in the middle of the innings but at the death, you need the yorker."

For now, though, Nehra can take a break from the routine of yorkers, bouncers, net sessions, relentless travel and back-to-back games. In the summer, he heads with family to England, where his wife grew up. Nehra is a doting father to his two kids and proclaims proudly that he is a "hands-on dad".

As we find some shade to sit under once the camera has stopped rolling, he animatedly discusses the latest in Indian cricket with Sinha. Some kids interrupt the chat to take pictures with him and he obliges. Nehra is a familiar figure here, one from the stable who has hit the big time yet stays rooted. He knows there could have been so much more to show for his time as a cricketer. But he has learnt to accept, learnt to embrace, learnt to relish what he has been given. "There will be regrets in everyone's life but I am very happy," he says. "I never asked for more from God. I just always say that I am thankful for what I have, and if I continue to have it, I will be happy."

Gaurav Kalra is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo. @gauravkalra75