Back in the national cricket team after being ignored for almost five years, veteran India pacer Ashish Nehra on Monday (April 19) said that he regrets having turned down MS Dhoni and former Indian coach Gary Kirsten’s offer to make a comeback to the Test side in 2009.
The enigmatic left-arm pacer from Delhi has lived most of his 17 years in international cricket in the company of injuries.
The pacer last played for India in the semifinal of the victorious 2011 World Cup campaign against Pakistan. After missing the final due to a finger injury, he was overlooked for nearly five years before being recalled for the three-match T20 series against Australia last month.
Making his Test debut under Mohammad Azharuddin in 1999, he was never selected for the longest format after playing the last of his 17th match in 2004. The pacer has been in sensational form this year, playing a crucial role for India in the Twenty20 format for India.
“When I look back, I feel I should have played more than 17 Test matches,” Nehra said .
“In 2009, Dhoni and the then coach Gary Kirsten had asked me if I would like to make a Test comeback. I was around 30-31 then and should have responded positively but I was not very sure. When I look back, only two years back, at the age of 35, I had played six four-day matches in six weeks.”
Questioned on comparison between Dhoni and Sourav Ganguly, under whom Nehra had played some of his best cricket, the left-arm seamer admitted:
“When we played under Sourav, guys like myself, Yuvraj (Singh), Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan were all very young. For us Sourav’s wish was our command as he had much more experience than all of us. If Dada said that something needs to be executed, we knew it had to be done.
“When I made a comeback under Dhoni in 2009, I was more matured and I knew more about my bowling and also could understand and relate to Dhoni’s philosophy of captaincy. So it has also been an enjoyable experience under Dhoni.”
While speaking about Dhoni, the left-arm pacer hailed him as the coolest captain under pressure.
“Right from my debut under Mohammed Azharuddin , I have played under so many captains but when it comes to remaining cool and delivering under pressure, Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the best. I have not seen anyone who can remain so cool under pressure.”
He also backed Dhoni’s gesture to call an Australian journalist to sit beside him when asked about retirement after India’s semi-final loss against West Indies at the World T20.
“How many times have you seen Dhoni lose his cool? It’s also about how you ask a particular question. On personal front, what is being written in papers has never bothered me as I don’t read them or watch news on television. I don’t even watch cricket on television.
I rarely give interviews or press statements.”
The pacer was surprisingly left out of the squad for five years after 2011 World Cup. When asked about this the pacer didn’t answer directly.
“I sustained four fractures in my hand while fielding during the semi-final match against Pakistan. But one needs to understand that being injured does not mean you are unfit. The injury is getting hit, sustaining fractures but fitness is a different aspect.
“In these four years, I may not have played international cricket but I was playing domestic cricket during that phase,” said Nehra.