Did whatever I could with my kind of body: Ashish Nehra
Like the great former West Indian fast bowler Curtly Ambrose (“Curtly talk to no man”), Ashish Nehra, too, has generally stayed away from media interviews. Following his retirement last week from international cricket—after the first Twenty20 (T20) International against New Zealand at his home ground in Delhi—the 38-year-old made an exception. Edited excerpts from an interview at his home in Delhi’s Uday Park:
How will you remember your last game?
I did not believe in fairy-tale farewells but it sort of worked out perfectly. Of course, I do count myself fortunate to have played my last game in Delhi.
How will you look back at your 18-year international career?
You can say that I made the most of it (my talent), whatever I had. I can sit in front of a mirror and say that I did whatever I could do with my kind of body. Nobody thought Nehra would ever retire from the Indian dressing room.
What will you do now?
It’s not even been a week since I played my last game, but yes, I will be attached with cricket only.
Maybe you could be part of Ravi Shastri’s team as bowling coach?
You never know—I can’t rule out a bowling coach’s role. I won’t rule out commentary either.
Does it hurt that you were not selected for five years (after the 2011 World Cup till January 2016) for no particular reason? Did anyone explain the exclusion?
I never asked for any explanation. It’s the selectors’ job to pick the players. I was the highest wicket-taker in One Day Internationals (ODIs ) and T20s leading up to 2011. But I must be doing something good that I was still playing in 2017.
What will your legacy be? Someone who set the standard for bowling at the end (death overs) of the innings in limited-overs cricket?
It was not only me: Zaheer (Khan) and (Ajit) Agarkar too. Agarkar was hugely underrated. People often remember only those match-winning contributions like last-over heroics. Maybe it’s because of the IPL (Indian Premier League). But Venkatesh Prasad was also a good death bowler. Bhuvi (Bhuvaneshwar Kumar) and Jasprit Bumrah are as good as anyone else and will be untouchable in the next seven-eight years if they keep working hard.
Is this the best time for Indian bowling in all formats because of the options we have?
When we were playing, there was no rotation policy. In our time, no 14 Test matches in a season or so many T20s. Now, we have more options because of India A and the IPL, which has helped enormously. Look at Mohammad Siraj, who hasn’t played too much first-class cricket but played in Rajkot (the second T20I on 4 November) in my place. The IPL has given a chance that you can nurture your talent.
Tests and T20 bowlers will be different. Do Ravindra Jadeja and R. Ashwin need to get used to this?
Rules are changing so fast. As a bowler, you need to evolve fast. For a fast bowler, it’s tough to play all three formats, but not so much for spinners.
The best captain of your career—M.S. Dhoni or Sourav Ganguly?
You are comparing eras, which is not right. Vivian Richards’ (batting) average was around 47 but he would average 80 today. You can’t just judge players on statistics only. Rahul Dravid’s contribution was no less despite captaining in fewer games.
Who was the most difficult batsman to bowl to?
Adam Gilchrist and that Australian team were at a different level. From 2002-08, Gilly was on a different planet. (Jacques) Kallis was also very good, as were (Ricky) Ponting, (Brian) Lara and Viru (Sehwag).
Has Virat Kohli’s growth as a player surprised you?
It hasn’t happened overnight. It took him three-four years to change his body. His intensity is staggering. If he plays with a tennis ball in a park, he will have the same intensity.
Your finest cricketing memory?
Winning the (2011) World Cup was special. But people remember personal moments like the Durban 2003 match (Nehra’s 6 wickets for 23 runs—the best for an Indian in a World Cup).
How would you like people to remember you?
As a player who never gave up and was always a good trier. Some people think that my talent was never fulfilled, but that’s looking at (my career) negatively. If somebody can learn (from me) and get inspired, I will be happy. My cricket life has taught me many things—if you don’t see failure, you won’t evolve.