When Ashish Nehra made his international debut back in 1998, Kuldeep Yadav, India’s mystery spinner was just four. The lanky bowler burst onto the scene with a not-so-smooth action, but the one that sent the ball at high pace. When he traveled outside, his pace combined with swing, making life difficult for the batsmen. Eighteen years since he debuted, Nehra underwent over 10 surgeries owing to that action but not once did he compromise on pace.
Once considered a platform for the youngsters, Nehra, 38, has adjusted seamlessly to the rigors of T20. The way he bowls, he can continue to bowl till he is 40. However, the performance of India’s current pace battery has delighted him and he wants those considerably younger than him to enjoy a longer run.
Ahead of the third and final T20 against Australia in Hyderabad, Nehra announced his retirement plan. India’s ageless wonder will give those worn out shoes the much-required rest after the first T20I against New Zealand in Delhi. In front of his family and fans, Nehra will don the blues at the Feroz Shah Kotla, his home ground. “It is my own decision, I have spoken to the team management as well as the chairman of the selection committee. I’m really lucky, it can’t get bigger than getting to retire in front of your home crowd,” said Nehra.
While memories of his magical spell of 6/23 against England in the 2003 World Cup are still fresh, he played a crucial role in India’s World Cup win 2011. His economical spell of 2/33 against Pakistan in the semi-final helped India make the final which he unfortunately missed owing to a fractured finger.
Highlighting his thought process behind the big call, he said, “I have given it (retirement) a good thought, especially with the way Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) and (Jasprit) Bumrah have been bowling over the past six months,” he said. “When I came into this series, I had come prepared to bowl. The day I linked up with this squad, I spoke to the captain and coach about my plan, because whenever Ashish Nehra is in the side he plays in the XI; he doesn’t sit out, we’ve seen that in the T20s over the last couple of years.
“I feel Bhuvneshwar is ready, the way he has been bowling, and there is no big event in the next five or six months, like a World Cup or anything. It’s very important to me what people in the dressing room think. Now they say you can easily play for one more year. I’ve been a believer of the fact that it’s always good to retire when people ask why and not why not.”
He made is clear that 1st November will be last day as a professional cricketer. “I put my point of view to them. This is how I feel and this is my thought. Obviously, I could still play. But the first thing Virat said was you can still play, then second thing he said you could play IPL. It's good that people still think I can play. It was a tough decision for me, but they all respect my decision.
“Every individual has certain strengths and certain weaknesses. I was always mentally strong. I am that sort of a person who trains day in and day out to play for India. Like I said, I could have played easily one more year of international cricket. People said you are retiring in November, you can still play the next IPL which is just five months away. But it's my decision that if I leave, I will leave completely, I won't even play the IPL."