New Delhi: One of the biggest surprises in the Indian squad for the Australian tour announced on Saturday was left-arm seamer Ashish Nehra making a return to the national fold after a period of over four years.
The 37-year-old Delhi pacer has been named in the Twenty20 squad for the three-match series and is seen as a strong contender for the upcoming World T20 to be held in India in March 2016.
Nehra is excited after getting recalled and said the time he spent away from the Indian team was a difficult one because he didn’t lose his place due to bad form.
“I’ve never thought of quitting. Never! Those years away from the Indian team were the most difficult and painful. I had lost my place due to injury and not form. It looks a very happy world now,” Ashish Nehra was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
Nehra last appeared in national colours in the 2011 World Cup’s semifinal against Pakistan. A finger injury deprived him of a chance to play in the final that India won to lift the Cup after 28 years. He lost his place in the team too. “I still have the screw and plate in my finger,” he said.
“I kept backing myself. My wife and parents stood like pillars behind me. My coach (Tarak Sinha) was a big strength, and I had cricketeres Zak (Zaheer Khan) and Jad (Ajay Jadeja) constantly encouraging me.
“I am grateful to the selectors for showing the faith in me.”
On the time away from cricket, Nehra said: “I kept analysing where I went wrong. I just trained myself for international cricket, not just for IPL. I really worked hard and punished my body because I loved playing the game. I will play till the body responds well, and it is responding well. At 37, I have made a comeback. Is it not unusual?”
Nehra said he almost pulled out of the 2011 World Cup because of back pain but he did not after captain MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar talked him into not giving up. “Last week, John Wright backed me when we met in Mumbai,” he said.
“I must confess, though, that a comeback is always tougher than getting a debut.”
Evaluating his role in the team, Nehra said that it is a good thing that Dhoni is the captain because he knows him best. “It helps me that I have the same captain (M.S. Dhoni) in the IPL and in the Indian team. He reads me best,” he said.
“It is up to the captain how to use me. I bowl in the first four or six overs and the last four too. He knows what I am capable of. Conditions become tough but I know when I am bowling well. Dhoni knows too.
“I like to see myself as the main bowler. It puts pressure but I like pressure.”
“The last five years have taught me a lot. I want to share it with the youngsters: when to work hard, how to preserve eneregy. Many thought I would retire in 2005. Then 2008. But I did not give up.
“I just worked hard at my club (Sonnet). Seventeen years after my debut, I will be making a comeback in the shortest format of the game. It is an exciting phase for me indeed.”
In T20, Nehra said, the important thing is reading the situation.
“I don't mind doing the dirty job because the captain trusts me. I might go for 40 in three overs but I won't lose my composure. I’ll still run hard in my run up, bowl a good bouncer, slip in a yorker too,” he said.
“The captain sees how good you are looking in your rhythm and confidence. I always thought I was the king of the ring. I learnt slowly that not always can one be the king.”