Nehra fit and raring to go

A bout of chikungunya had laid Ashish Nehra low for nearly two months.

Ashish Nehra with coach Tarak Sinha.   -  Vijay Lokapally

A player understands his body best. His coach understands better. For Tarak Sinha, the cricket guru with the eyes of an eagle to spot talent among thousands, Ashish Nehra is one enigmatic pupil.

A left-arm seamer, endowed with enviable wicket-taking skills, Nehra is radiating with confidence at the Sonnet Club 'nets' in south Delhi. In the distance, work is in progress at a furious pace to erect the metro station. At the busy 'nets' of the Venkateswara College, Nehra is calmly engaged in assessing his body for a possible return to the Indian squad.

A bout of chikungunya laid him low for nearly two months. “It was a hard phase. I was ready for the season, had worked on my fitness too, but this illness left me drained. I am confident and fit now,” said Nehra, ahead of his planned stint at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore.

Sinha is watching his ward closely. “He has been my most disciplined student. It is his bad luck that he has incurred a few injuries that have stopped him from giving his best but then at no point has he been unfit,” emphasises Sinha.

It was a mystery why Nehra was not picked after he bowled the best among the Indians at the ICC World Cup semi-final against Pakistan in Mohali in 2011. He was repeatedly ignored by the National selectors but it did not deter Nehra from backing himself.

“I can only control my fitness. Not my injuries. If a batsman gets hit on the body and misses the next few games does it mean he becomes unfit? The same applies to bowlers. You twist your ankle or suffer a hamstring injury. That does not make him unfit. I am unfit only if I can’t bowl my quota of overs. In today’s cricket, every players realises the importance of fitness and I don’t know anyone who would compromise his position in the team by ignoring his fitness,” says Nehra.

Sinha insists, “If you ask me, he is still good enough for a couple of seasons. He has the skills to get a batsman out and that is what makes him a bowler to respect. He is an asset to any captain because he loves to bowl in any situation. Plus his presence helps the other bowlers on the field because he can guide them.”

As Sinha observes, “Ashish can be a good bowling coach. He has a very effective idea of bowling in different situations and is good at sharing his experience. Not everyone can do that. I am sure Ashish can become a decent bowling coach.”

Nehra smiles and returns to the 'nets' to bowl to Rishabh Pant, the latest batting sensation on the circuit.