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IPL and Ashish Nehra

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Ashish_Nehra_India_cricket_Chennai_Super_KingsIf ever you thought that the IPL is not a gateway to the Indian team, ask Ashish Nehra and you will understand the role of the IPL in his comebacks. His comeback during the recently concluded Australian series isn’t the first one on the basis of his IPL performance. He had earlier made a stunning comeback in 2009, and then played an important role in India’s Cricket World Cup triumph in 2011, before getting injured again. At an age when most cricket players think of retiring, Nehra has made a comeback to the Indian cricket team. All thanks to the woes of Indian fast bowling and the injury to Mohammad Shami.

If not for a combination of the two, I can’t remember the last time an Indian bowler was brought back into the setup when he was on the wrong side of the 30s. But to Ashish Nehra’s credit, he has done his part, both before his comeback and after it.

 

There was never an iota of doubt over his talent, and when he made his debut in 1999, many felt that he would be a long term prospect. If not for his injury, he could have been a star by now.

Coming back to his current comeback. The seeds were sowed in 2014 after he was picked by Chennai Super Kings in the auction. Two seasons before that he was with Pune Warriors where his form went well with the team’s performance. He didn’t have a solid start to his CSK campaign, dropping Glenn Maxwell early, letting him go on to win the match for Kings XI. His bowling figures were arguably alright, considering the pitch was a belter. He was then dropped from the 11 for the next few matches.

But he made a comeback, and it was so impressive that he soon became Dhoni’s go to man in the IPL. Dhoni used him effectively, both in the initial and end overs. The fact that he was under Dhoni did help him. A solid performance and there was a buzz of Nehra making a comeback but it was not to be. Come another season of IPL, and this time there was no looking back for Nehra. He finished as the 3rd highest wicket taker in IPL 2015. By this time, even he was frustrated of being ignored by the selectors on the basis of his age.

In an interview with the Indian Express, he mentioned all this, including being ignored by the selectors, and the fact that he had been the leader of the Indian bowling line up for the 3 years leading to the World Cup 2011.

 

Then opportunity knocked, and this time it was very unexpected. But Nehra seized it with both hands, playing a crucial role in India’s victory over Australia, Sri Lanka and then in lifting the Asia Cup. Nehra, along with Bumrah seems to have solved the problem of bowling at the death, and nobody will be happier than Dhoni.

Dhoni did say that it would be tough to leave out Nehra even after Shami regained match fitness. Well, whether or not he really meant, we shall see in the rest of the T20 World Cup.

After making his comeback, he has played 10 T20I matches and has gone wicketless just once. Striking an early blow was déjà vu, something which was common during Nehra’s prime as well. Dhoni used him wisely, holding him back for the end overs if needed, or else not hesitating to get 3 overs from him at the beginning.

So, what next? Will he be dropped again, whether or not India wins the T20 World Cup 2016? Maybe yes, or maybe the Indian selectors are looking to get 2-3 more years of limited overs cricket from him. Nehra hasn’t shown any signs of retiring and if he can prevent injury, we may well see him in the ODI format as well.

For a career that has now spanned more than 17 years, just 17 Tests, 120 ODIs and 118 T20 matches are far too few. But Nehra’s luck played its part in this. Whenever he seemed to have hit a purple patch, he was struck down by injuries.

This is surely his last chance, and hopefully he can make it count so that the coming generation of cricket fans can know that he was much more than just a troll joke on twitter.

 


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