For Nehra, age is just a number

Unlike many of his former teammates, veteran seamer Ashish Nehra, 38, bid adieu to the game on his own terms, after the first T20 against New Zealand played at his home turf — Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium — on Wednesday.

As curtains drew on his 20-year-long first class career, the lanky left-arm seamer will surely go down as one of India’s premier pacers whose international career could have touched dizzy heights had it not been marred by countless injuries. Yet, his is an amazing story perseverance, courage and character. Few thought Nehra will return to the national fold after making his last ODI appearance in the 2011 World Cup, in the semifinal against Pakistan.

But Nehra had other plans. He continued to ply his trade in the IPL with the same passion that helped him rip apart England in the 2003 World Cup with a devastating spell of 6/23. His standout performance for Chennai Super Kings in 2015 IPL, when he scalped 22 wickets — the most by an Indian fast bowler, brought Nehra back into contention. He was soon drafted into the T20 squad for a limited over tour Down Under in early 2016, helping India clinch the T20 series with a 3-0 clean sweep. He was the pick of the Indian bowlers in last year’s T20 World Cup and continued the good run in this year’s IPL to earn a place in the recently concluded T20 series against Australia.

Just to give you an idea as to how old Nehra is, when he made his Ranji Trophy debut against Haryana in the 1997-98 season, Delhi had the late Raman Lamba, Ajay Sharma and Atul Wassan in the playing eleven! He made his Test debut in 1999 under the leadership of Mohammad Azharuddin and has played under five different captains since then -- Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, MS Dhoni and now Virat Kohli.

A total of 164 international matches (235 wickets) across three formats in 18 years may not be great from a statistical point of view, but Nehra will always remain an enigma for what he could have achieved had he not gone under the knife 12 times.

Aritra Mukhopadhyay