It has been a dream comeback for Ashish Nehra. For the 36-year-old Delhi fast bowler to play for Team India after being in the wilderness for five years, it is nothing short of a marvel. Nobody ever doubted the left-armer’s talent. However, multiple injury problems have kept bogging Nehra down all through his career.
Nehra, who last played for India in the semi-final of the 2011 World Cup which was held in India, seemed to be a closed chapter this year. However, his grit, determination and a complete change of fitness regimen saw Nehra achieve the seemingly impossible. With the World T20 tournament round the corner, Nehra is the spearhead of the Indian bowling attack.
Nehra has admitted that making a comeback was a tough thing to achieve. "It's very difficult to make a comeback. Comebacks are much more difficult than debuts. I've made a comeback after 36," he said.
Grit, determination and a never-say-die attitude are the hallmarks of Nehra’s career. His long-time coach Tarak Sinha said, "From the time I have known him, he has been a very gutsy and hardworking cricketer. He is also not afraid of putting in that extra work, whether it be on or off the field. So I am not surprised that he is making a comeback into Team India after five years.” Sinha's association with Nehra began when the bowler represented Sonnet in the Delhi Cricket League.
Nehra, who decided to concentrate on the shorter version of the game, felt a long time back that for a bowler to make a comeback in the T20 version playing the IPL was a big advantage. "The IPL is a great help for us when it comes to T20 cricket. You get used to it as a bowler. You just practice according. I'm somebody bowling upfront or one or two overs in the slog overs. The more you play, the better you become," he said.
Nehra’s bowling, both at the beginning and end of the innings, has come as a revelation. He gets the ball to swing in and away during the initial overs and then comes up with Yorkers that are difficult to score at the end of the innings. “Yes I have improved on bowling the Yorkers – something which is so important for a bowler in T20 cricket,” said Nehra.
More than anything else, Nehra made a major change in his fitness programme to enable him to make a comeback. Always troubled by persistent injuries, he realised that the routine gym workouts were not good for his body. He came up with a novel idea to take to yoga more seriously in an attempt to address his fitness woes.
“Nehra has been practicing yoga since 2009,” said Sinha. “In 2014, he started to take to yoga much more seriously. He began to do more sessions of yoga and gradually eased out his demanding gym training. I must say that this was a very astute move and it also ensured that his body was free from the injuries,” Sinha said.
In an effort to cut down on his injuries, Ashish Nehra has stopped doing the football practice sessions which the Indian team does regularly during training drills. “He has got injured a couple of times during these football sessions and has since stopped taking part. He is very cautious on what he does these days,” said Sinha..
Gavaskar praises Nehra
Meanwhile, former India captain Sunil Gavaskar has heaped praise on Nehra, describing him as a crafty bowler who has proved that "age is just a number"."Ashish Nehra has proven that age is just a number. He is mixing his deliveries well and bowling craftily. He has done really well for India so far," Gavaskar said.