There could not be a better setting for Ashish Nehra to bid adieu to international cricket as the Delhi seamer played his farewell game at the Feroz Shah Kotla in front of his home fans in Delhi on Wednesday.
Indian cricket has created a mark of its own when it comes to producing elegant stroke-makers and quality spinners. However, when we talk about seam bowling, the Indians haven’t had an illustrious list of greats as compared to the likes of Australia, South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan.
So a quality fast bowler in the Indian ranks has always been a luxury in a team dominated by batting greats. If we go into history, one can cherry pick the number of world class seamers India produced. Kapil Dev certainly ranks among the greatest swing bowler India ever produced.
Javagal Srinath was India's numero Uno seamer in the 90s and then came along Zaheer Khan who mastered the craft of moving the ball both ways in the new millennium. However, when we talk specifically about left arm seamers they seem to be even fewer. Zaheer Khan, RP Singh and Irfan Pathan and Ashish Nehra ranks up as the best exponents in swinging the red cherry with their left arm.
In the fag end of the 90s, the pace duo of Javagal Srinath and Ventakesh Prasad were coming to the end of their careers, India needed a new crop to serve their new ball attack. A plethora of fast bowlers put their hands up to take on the challenge but only a few succeeded. One of the emerging turks who booked his place was Zaheer Khan and the other was Ashish Nehra.
The tall and lanky seamer from Delhi had the ability to move the ball around at a brisk pace. Nehra became a potent threat to any side with his outswingers which he pitched at the perfect length to scalp his victims. He could also slant the ball into the right-handers which made him dangerous.
Nehra announced himself on the international scene after playing an instrumental role in winning India its first overseas series in Zimbabwe in 2001. Nehra did not have the best physique and often battled with injuries all through his career. In the peak of his prowess, he had to compete in the Indian side with seamers like Ajit Agarkar, Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel, RP Singh, S Sreesanth and L Balaji all quality seamers in their own merit.
His undaunting spirit to play for the country helped him overcome adversities and continue churning out match-winning performances to become one of India’s leading paceman. Nehra kept himself extremely fit and made a comeback into India’s T20 squad.
Nehra was an outright match winner on his day and he could rattle through oppositions when he got his act together. His 6 for 23 against England in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa is considered as one of the finest spells of pace bowling.
Whenever off national duty, Nehra spearheaded Delhi’s attack in the Ranji Trophy. He was their leading seamer and played an inspirational role in grooming youngsters like Ishant Sharma who went on to play for the country. After two decades of international cricket, Nehra scalped 44 Test wickets and 157 ODI wickets.
As he sailed into his 30's, Nehra honed more skills and developed himself into a clever T20 customer. He blossomed into one of the best bowlers in the IPL playing for multiple franchises. Nearing 40, Nehra was still good enough to find a spot in the Indian team in the shortest format of the game.
A gentleman off the filed a fierce competitor on it, Ashish Nehra shall do down as arguably one of India's finest left-arm seamers.