Nehra could have been a better Test bowler, says Zaheer

Nehra was a fan of Zaheer’s craft, and the sentiment is reciprocated unabashedly. “I loved his bowling, his action, his work-ethic. He was an asset as a colleague, an inspiring guy to have at hand on the field,” said Zaheer, who will be at the Kotla to watch Nehra play his final international match.

Zaheer said he had vivid recollections of Nehra’s spell of six for 23 against England in the 2003 World Cup.   -  S. Subramanium

Best of competitors and the best of friends. It was a special bond that Ashish Nehra and Zaheer Khan shared.

As fellow left-arm seamers, they competed with each other even as they made life miserable for the batsmen. And the cricket fans relished their art.

Nehra was a fan of Zaheer’s craft, and the sentiment is reciprocated unabashedly. “I loved his bowling, his action, his work-ethic. He was an asset as a colleague, an inspiring guy to have at hand on the field,” said Zaheer, who will be at the Kotla to watch Nehra play his final international match. “We have always been very good friends. His advice would electrify me into action. He was always upfront and always blunt, whether in cricket or life. He was always there for you.

READ: Let's play the swansong, in Nehra's beats

“He carried himself with dignity. His self-belief was infectious and very evident in his bowling.”

Zaheer said he had vivid recollections of Nehra’s spell of six for 23 against England in the 2003 World Cup. “He was not even sure of playing that match. He had a swollen ankle from an injury during nets. He had to pass a fitness test, and good that he did!” said Zaheer. “England was blown away that day by an individual. His pace, swing, bounce... everything was amazing. The balls were pitched in an immaculate area. You had to play every ball.

READ: Nehra set to retire from international cricket

“It was a 38-year-old mind in a 22-year-old bowler.

“I am sure he could’ve been a better Test bowler. With the Kookaburra ball, he was far better than me. He was a master at bringing the ball back into the batsman.”

On their friendship, Zaheer said: “We both knew that we were not fighting for the same spot. Winning the match for India was more important. We always talked about the match and different game situations.

“We still talk about those situations.

READ: Azharuddin: ‘Nehra could have played more Tests’

“We have been possessive of our friendship and support for each other. We were the best competitors and best friends travelling in the team.

“I know he’ll be closing one chapter and starting a fresh one. I am very happy for him because he is retiring from the ground. It will be an emotional moment for the both of us. We shall celebrate Ashish Nehra’s fantastic career.”