Age a number for pacer Nehra.

Rising against all odds

Age a number for pacer Nehra.

As far as sporting comebacks go, this is as inspiring as any. Of course circumstances have helped a great deal, but Ashish Nehra has proved age is just a number if you are willing to put in the hard yards.

The left-arm paceman had last played for India in the 2011 World Cup semifinal against Pakistan in Mohali. He would have travelled to Mumbai for the final against Sri Lanka but a finger injury sustained while fielding in the semifinal cut short his glory. Nehra’s international career appeared seemingly over but the man himself didn’t give up hopes.

It’s difficult for anyone to make a comeback if you are on the wrong side of 30s but even so if you happen to be a pace bowler. And if you are as injury-prone as Nehra was, then it becomes an almost impossible task to convince the selectors to back you. His consistent good shows in the Indian Premier League and in domestic cricket, however, influenced his recall with purely in mind the World T20, which was going to be held in India.

Just 36 days shy of his 37th birthday, Nehra is successfully leading the Indian attack now, justifying the faith reposed in him by selectors and captain MS Dhoni who had come under criticism for their “regressive” approach to team selection.

“I’m loving it,” said Nehra about his comeback. “Whatever responsibility captain and team management has given me, I’m just trying to do whatever best I can do, and I will just try to play as long as I can, as long as my body holds up, and I keep working hard… I’m really enjoying it, and any cricketer will enjoy playing international cricket and do well, and my aim is the same,” remarked Nehra.

Since his comeback in Australia towards end of January, the Delhi pacer has picked up 15 wickets in 12 T20 Internationals. His economy of 7.29 in these matches is far better than the career T20I economy of 7.95 in 20 games. His career strike rate of 15.4 balls per wicket is marginally better than 16.4 that he has managed since his return. More than the numbers he has stacked up, it’s the combination he has forged with young paceman Jasprit Bumrah that has provided an edge to Indian attack. The duo’s ability to bowl in the power play and in the slog overs, has helped skipper MS Dhoni breathe easy.

“This is not the first time that I’m bowling two-three overs in first six or bowling one or two overs in last four – that’s my job, and till the time I’m doing that job, it means I’m right up there. I’m doing whatever is supposed to be done.

“I always love to be in my team, to be in top two bowlers who can bowl up front and bowl at death, so till the time I’m doing that I’m really happy, and for that definitely I have to work really hard, and I’m trying to do that, and my job is really important.”

Nehra is also playing mentor’s role to young pacers in the side, passing on the expertise he has gained over the years.

“We have people like Bumrah or Bhuvneshwar Kumar or (Mohammad) Shami… Whatever experience I have in last 16-17 years, I just pass it on to them, and I’m sure it’s helping them. Everyone knows how talented they are, how they have performed, especially Bumrah as you have seen in the last 2-3 months, so hopefully whatever help I can do (I will),” he offered.

 

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