Ashish Nehra: From social media joke to legend; the making of a cult classic

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New Delhi | Published: November 1, 2017 4:30:26 PM

Not too long ago, Ashish Nehra was best known for leaking runs at crucial stages of the match, substandard fielding and his memes that were circulating on various social media platforms. Today, he is set to bid adieu to the sport in the capacity of a legend at his home ground Feroz Shah Kotla.

Ashish Nehra, nehra, Ashish Nehra retires, Ashish Nehra retirement, nehra retires, nehra retirement, india vs new zealand, ind vs nz, india vs new zealand t20, india vs new zealand t20, sports news, cricket news, latest newsAshish Nehra with his child during a Ranji match. (Source: Express archive)

Not too long ago, Ashish Nehra was best known for leaking runs at crucial stages of the match, substandard fielding and his memes that were circulating on various social media platforms. Today, he is set to bid adieu to the sport in the capacity of a legend at his home ground Feroz Shah Kotla. To tell you the importance of these events, even Virender Sehwag (who is the only Indian cricketer to score a triple century in Tests according to DDCA) wasn’t given a farewell match by BCCI. Nor was Zaheer Khan who over-shadowed Nehra for the better part of their careers, was given this privilege. And yet, here we are bidding farewell to a man who represented India in 163 international matches (17 Tests + 120 ODIs + 26 T20Is), which is less than the number of ODIs Rohit Sharma (191*) has already played.

Having made his debut in 1999 (even before the current chief of selectors, MSK Prasad did), Nehra has literally seen the game evolve, in every sense. He has been a part of so many different Indian sides, witnessed various eras, played under all types of captains, had every injury in the book but, continued to make the fans admire him. His journey has been so fascinating to watch that if Nehra was a movie, he probably would have been a cult classic.

Nehra started his career as a quick fast-bowler who can move the new ball. He was among the top 5 fast bowlers of the 2003 ICC ODI World Cup. However, with time, Nehra adapted beautifully. He found a lethal yorker, developed good slower balls and mastered the art of deceiving batsmen. Moreover, Nehra understood his own game. He understood what works and what doesn’t.

Apart from his teammates, the pain was Nehra’s constant friend for the last 18 years. In a recent interview, Nehra revealed that he had 12 surgeries during his career, one of them even forced him to miss the 2011 ODI World Cup final which probably was the biggest match of his career. It was followed by a three-year gap where Nehra was completely forgotten by the selectors. Every time a bowler would go for 20 odd runs in an over, people would go back and troll the left-arm fast bowler.

The old man (as we thought of him back then), didn’t give up. He battled hard in the Indian Premier League and was brought back to the Indian side. Suddenly, he was the bowler MS Dhoni looked up to whenever India was struggling because of just one quality: uncanny ball selection.

A few good performances coupled with his dedication and hard-work turned him into a fan favourite. Soon, one tweet from old friend Virender Sehwag earned the old warrior his new name – Nehra Ji.

Time changed, cricket was different and so were the teammates. Sachin, Sourav, Dravid were replaced by Rohit, Virat and Dhawan but, Nehra remained as he was. Last year, during the T20I World Cup, when he was asked about the ‘mauka mauka’ campaign during a press conference, Nehra replied. “You are asking this question to the wrong person because I am somebody who is not on social media and I am still using my old Nokia. So I am not on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. I don’t read newspapers. Maybe, I am from the old school.”

Gifted an iPhone recently by his wife, he has now discovered WhatsApp.

His 6/23 spell against England in the 2003 World Cup, the aeroplane celebration and the last ball to Moin Khan in 2004 when Pakistan needed 6 runs to win, are just some of the moments that Indian fans will never forget.

Nehra will retire today, but Nehra Ji will remain with us for life. Live long and prosper!

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