Ashish Nehra’s Success Journey- More Of A Marathon Than A Sprint!

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Some success stories are seen as a tourn to a single-stop fame-roll, while some are a journey in themselves until the very end. One such has been that of Ashish Nehra’s- more of a success marathon than a sprint!

Jumbled with quirks, differences and injuries, Ashish Nehra turned out to be one obscure character for Indian cricket: a tough bolt to crack and an even tougher genius to appraise.

Donning a mile-wide grin wherever he wandered in his drowsy motion, Nehra managed to endure several pacers of his generation with sheer will, producing out the adequate impulse to retreat from exhausting operations and intense injuries.

His journey could have been stigmatized as a career of ‘could-haves’, but Nehra never seemed to worry, so much so, that he made us not bother as well.

He became the bottom of jokes on social media, but couldn’t care less, once quipping that he didn’t own a cell phone to even go through the jokes.

Stories of Nehra yielding a great brotherhood with Virender Sehwag have drained down the social media, making fans cognizant of a time when the two used to bestow a scooter and commute to the Feroz Shah Kotla for the Delhi Ranji team’s practice.

At the age of 19, Nehra got his consequential break, securing a spot in the Test side against Sri Lanka in February 1999 at Colombo. The unimpressive debut hardly ruffled any feathers, and Nehra was soon forgotten.

Though a change of keeper under the profound ‘dada‘ aka Sourav Ganguly gave him another chance.

Part of a young group of pacers who were touted to move Indian cricket forward, Nehra, along with Zaheer Khan, made a re-entry, this time into ODIs as well. Perhaps the overlapping of his career with Khan took some of the glosses off his bowling.

While Nehra didn’t perform overwhelmingly well, he staked a claim for a spot in the World Cup, featuring in a line-up that was originally occupied by an ageing Javagal Srinath. One spell that changed how people perceived Nehra forever was the game-changing burst of pace bowling against England at Durban. That Super Six clash, perhaps, gave India the thrust they needed to reach the finals.

Struggling with a swollen ankle, Nehra was seen retching by the side of the pitch and in a bid to stay on the field, he consumed bananas. Ganguly then decided to toss the ball to the pacer.

In an uninterrupted spell of ten-overs, carrying one end, Nehra made intrusions into the England batting, completely obliterating their chase that found its way into the record books.

Hitting perfect lines and sailing the ball around marginally, he seemed to be in a different league altogether. The Ganguly-led team, however, faltered on the cup of glory, wasting out to Australia definitely in the finals.

Then the emergence of Irfan Pathan came as a sudden jolt to Nehra, who was just plastering his spot after the World Cup. On their tour to Australia, and afterwards Pakistan, Pathan highlighted in the team and marked everyone with his coarse pace and banana swing. With Zaheer also amongst the ranks, a trio of three-left arm pacers would have capsized the Indian team.

Nehra still played his part: although the pressure of expectations rose enormously after his Durban destruction, he was effective in the initial overs and reliable at the death.

Under Greg Chappell, a fresh set of pacers found their way into the Indian side, making the pool of fast bowling enormous: Munaf Patel, VRV Singh, RP Singh and later, Ishant Sharma, were all tried.

Struggling with poor form and fitness, Nehra had to make way: the final nail in the coffin was when he tore a ligament in his ankle during a net session. For the next three years and 294 days, he didn’t get to play for India.

The third-highest wicket-taker for Delhi Daredevils in IPL 2009, Nehra forced his way back into the national side, fully utilising the spot left by an injured Zaheer Khan.

On his recall, he picked up six wickets in the series against West Indies and landed just in time to be in the statement for the 2009 Champions Trophy.

Over the next year and a half, Nehra got an extended run in the Indian team, right up to the 2011 World Cup. His experience was invaluable, helping the side form a perfect mix with the youngsters in their crusade for the terminal title. 2009 was his most yielding year, fetching him 31 wickets from 21 games in ODIs.

While Zaheer retired in 2015, Nehra stuck around, playing his position in the IPL in the endurance of a recall.

Later after an infrequent spell, he played his last match on 01 November 2017, in the T20 India V New Zealand and bid adieu to the cricketing arena forever.

With his departure, the basic core team of 2003 world cup is now completely extinct from the Indian face of the modern cricketing battlefield. And as he departs, one thing is for every sure: that he might not be the quickest, the most fashionable, or the fittest bowler to have played, but Ashish Nehra has made sure that he won’t be a forgotten name in the history of Indian cricket.