'I would like to have Akram's cricketing acumen'

Published : Jul 28, 2001 00:00 IST


HIS phone does not stop ringing. Requests for interview from the print and electronic media have kept Ashish Nehra extremely occupied. He is in demand because of the good showing in Zimbabwe and he knows it is just the beginning.

Nehra has taken the success in his stride in a matured manner and has not allowed the distractions to affect his training. He had time to talk to The Sportstar before leaving for the Sri Lankan assignment a mere week after returning home.


Question: What are your impressions of the tour of Zimbabwe?

Answer: It was a good tour for me certainly. Quite educative and one which helped me understand my potential better. I gained a lot of experience even if it was just 45 days. The cricket was of high intensity and that really got me going. It was a long enough tour for me to get to know the various demands of Test cricket and one-day cricket. International cricket is very tough. The more you play the more you learn and it is this learning process which kept me focussed on my bowling.

How was it bowling on the pitches in Zimbabwe where you can seam the ball more than you can in domestic cricket?

It was quite a thrilling experience to tell you honestly. I enjoyed every moment of it. It was good preparation for me ahead of the tour to Sri Lanka. The weather and conditions would be different I know but this experience of the Zimbabwe tour will help me a lot.

How difficult was it finding the right length in Zimbabwe?

I know it's been tough for some but believe me I personally had no such problem. I could hit the right line and length from day one. Actually, when I returned from the camp in Bangalore I practised bowling the same length. So it was not much difficult for me. But again we'll have to adjust the length when bowling in Sri Lanka. I've been training hard. It's going to be very tough but I'm confident.

What did you develop essentially on the Zimbabwe tour?

Confidence. In bowling it's confidence which matters a lot. It's difficult to make a mark in international cricket. I've always believed in patience and I know that hard work pays. In my case it was a matter of sticking to discipline. That is the key in any department of the game if you wish to do well. You have to read the mind of the batsman and try various combinations because he is also prepared to tackle you.

How different was it to bowl in limited overs cricket?

Difficult yes but not as difficult as in Test cricket. In one-day cricket you have to watch out for line and length and be careful in the slog overs. If you bowl to your field you can be more successful. The slower one and the yorker have to be perfect. I'm working hard on my yorker.

How was the experience of bowling in the company of Javagal Srinath?

Well, Srinath is a wonderful bowler. And a great mate. Nothing makes him more happy than the youngsters doing well and I personally picked up a few important lessons by watching him from close and from talking to him for hours. He helped me and Zaheer (Khan) a lot and was always supporting us. It's a great quality really which sets Srinath apart. In the Tests, he guided us very well, planning every session for us and showing more joy when we got wickets.

There has always been a question mark regarding your fitness. What is your reaction to this?

For a fast bowler, the most important thing is fitness and I've been working very hard to improve my fitness levels. With more strength in my body I know I'll be able to bowl better. In the last two years I've worked very hard on my fitness. I had an ankle injury for which I travelled to England for treatment. No help came to me from any quarter and spending that much money was not easy. But I can say with confidence that I'm much fitter.

How is Zaheer (Khan) as a partner? What do you tell each other and how do you motivate each other?

Zaheer is a very good bowler and reads the game well. He is constantly helping his partners and also seeks guidance from the other bowlers. Between the matches and at times during the match we do discuss each other's problems. He keeps telling where to pitch and what tricks to try. Here, we both gained a lot from Srinath's help. I know our combination is very good.

Your idol is Wasim Akram. What would you like to learn from him?

There's not one but so many things to learn from Wasim Akram. He's a champion bowler. I would like to have his cricketing acumen. The way he thinks and the way he outwits the batsmen. The variety in his bowling is amazing. He's so deceptive, so difficult to read. I wish I could learn some of his tricks.

Did you try any of those tricks on the tour to Zimbabwe?

The slower one certainly. In Zimbabwe, I bowled a lot of slower ones. In the past, I was never so confident. But in Zimbabwe I could manage quite a few. This change of pace is very important and I know it'll come in handy during the Sri Lankan tour.

How difficult was adjusting your line and length from domestic cricket to international cricket?

The difference is big. The pressure is different. But if you are willing to slog you can adjust. I never allowed myself to be dictated. I just bowled my normal length.

John Wright has a lot of praise for you. How much did the coach help you in Zimbabwe?

He is a splendid motivator. He worked hard on our fitness and on our psychological preparation for a match. He made every one of us realise the significance of fielding and of course discipline in the performance. He plans very well and it makes the job of a newcomer quite easier.

How much did you gain from V. V. S. Laxman, your room-mate in Zimbabwe?

A lot. He is the most sincere cricketer I've seen. He did give me a lot of tips and what I liked the most about Laxman was that he was willing to discuss. It didn't matter what the problem was. Laxman would always have time to discuss. Every evening he would have nice words for me. He was a wonderful partner.

Where did you get the motivation to work on your comeback?

Between 1999 and now I have gone through a tough time. I slogged a lot at my club (Sonnet) and must give all credit to my coach (Tarak Sinha). It was my determination too but the coach helped me a lot. I learnt playing league in England and my coach kept telling me that nothing could stop me from a comeback provided I was willing to punish my body. Hard work can only give you good results and my coach drilled this point into my system. For me daily training and 'nets' was a must with Mr. Tarak Sinha supervising my progress. I owe a lot to him.

How much do you owe to your club?

I must give the entire credit to the club where I train. It's one of the most disciplined clubs and has produced quite a few international cricketers. Mr. Tarak Sinha works very honestly and selflessly. The club now has a ground of its own and is a lovely gathering of likeminded cricketers. With a club like Sonnet and a coach like Mr. Tarak Sinha to guide, I don't think I could've asked for more.

What are your plans for the season?

I know few expected me to bowl so well in Zimbabwe but I was always confident of doing well. But my aim is to bowl better and that's what I've to keep in mind everytime I step on to the field. The expectations from me will increase and that will be great because it will bring out the best out of me. I enjoy having responsibilities because it helps you become a better player. The forthcoming tours are going to be tougher.

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