Azharuddin: ‘Nehra could have played more Tests’ 

Mohammad Azharuddin, Ashish Nehra’s captain when he made his debut in 1999, praised the 38-year-old pacer for his humility and ability to continue for 18 years despite several surgeries. 

Ashish Nehra's one of the rare Indian pacers who's played international cricket for more than 15 years.   -  AFP

On the eve of the third T20I against Australia in Hyderabad, India speedster Ashish Nehra confirmed his decision to retire from international cricket. The 38-year-old, who staged a comeback (albeit in T20I cricket) in 2016 after sitting out for five years, will not even feature in the IPL.

Read: Nehra decides to quit on a high

Former India skipper Mohammad Azharuddin, Nehra’s first captain when he made his debut in 1999, lauded his decision but believed that the left-arm pacer could have played more Tests in his career. “I knew about his retirement because I met him a few days back, before he joined the team for the ongoing series. He told me he was going to retire. I think he has taken a good decision. The way he played with so many injuries is remarkable. He is an outstanding bowler. But I think he should have played more Test cricket,” Azharuddin told Sportstar in an exclusive chat.

“As a bowler, I feel he was restricted to ODI cricket. He had the ability to play more Tests for his natural strengths — in-swing, out-swing and then, he also developed pace. Unfortunately, he lost out on injuries. He underwent some 10 to 12 operations,” he added. Nehra is also one of the rare pacers from India who lasted 18 years.

"At the end of the day, you are known for your cricket but at the same time, you must also remember a person who has been this humble throughout his career. He has been nice to everyone.”

-MOHAMMAD AZHARUDDIN on Ashish Nehra

Recalling his first Test — against Sri Lanka in Colombo (1999) — Azharuddin said, “When I took his name in the selection committee meeting, many people were surprised that I knew him. He was a budding cricketer and I thought he had the right attitude and deserved a chance. He bowled reasonably well in that Test. He was raw and got a wicket (that of Marvan Atapattu) as well.” 

“I feel he really did well. You don’t like people to retire but that’s reality. He probably didn’t want his body to take more beating,” he reasoned.

However, Azharuddin wishes to see Nehra as a mentor for young cricketers in the future. Why? “With his capabilities and whatever he has learned in his career, he can impart the knowledge to young fast bowlers.

"When you talk to him, you don’t feel like you are talking to Ashish Nehra. At the end of the day, you are known for your cricket but at the same time, you must also remember a person who has been this humble throughout his career. He has been nice to everyone.”

Nehra played 17 Tests (44 wickets), 120 ODIs (157 wickets) and 26 T20Is (34 wickets) in his 18-year career so far. His last game will be on November 1, against New Zealand, at his home ground — Feroz Shah Kotla (New Delhi).