Striking success

For fast bowlers so used to getting the stick from explosive batsmen, Ashish Nehra’s wicket-taking ability comes like a kiss of life, writes Nandakumar Marar.

Ashish Nehra is a fine bowler in Twenty20 cricket; he is deceptive and lethal. Picking up two Player of the Match awards in three matches (until the time of writing) in the Indian Premier League is a remarkable achievement, especially in a format designed to suit batsmen with heavy willows, as they entertain fans with spectacular hitting.

Chennai Super Kings’ strike bowler refuses to play the bit part; he wants to pick up wickets. In the match against Delhi Daredevils in Chennai, Nehra scooped up three wickets for 25 runs, as Super Kings pulled off a nail-biting one-run victory. The left-arm medium-pacer was adjudged the Player of the Match.

Later, in the match against Mumbai Indians, Nehra claimed three wickets for his second Player of the Match award.

Under M. S. Dhoni, Nehra seems to have his finger on the trigger. He said he was happy to see bowlers in the IPL limelight by winning the Man of the Match awards.

“In T20, sometimes you are bowling well, but people don’t notice if you are not taking wickets. I am bowling with the new ball for CSK, picking wickets upfront; it is healthy for the team,” Nehra added.

Nehra was of the view that bowlers need to be wicket takers. “First two-three overs are always crucial, whether bowling first or second. Wickets are important. You can’t bowl two or three overs and not take wickets. To take wickets, you have to swing the ball and hit the right areas,” he said.

With his subtle variations and huge swing, Nehra is a strike force. In the match against Mumbai Indians, he greeted Rohit Sharma’s wicket by blowing a kiss after he had forced the batsman to play a risky shot across the line.

Dhoni recalled Nehra in the 15th over and the bowler looked surprised with the move. He, however, accomplished the job expected of him.

“Whether a bowler or a batsman, having the captain’s faith is important. Dhoni brought me back in the 15th over and I thought it was a bit too early. He said, ‘we need wickets’. I always look to take wickets. The kind of batsman Rohit is, you always want to get him out,” Nehra said.

The wiry bowler has been learning on the job, beginning 2008 when he had shared the Mumbai Indians dressing room with all-rounder Shaun Pollock of South Africa. “Every year you learn new things. Shaun Pollock was a great help in my first season. Then I played for Daredevils. Now it’s CSK,” Nehra said.

“In this format, you don’t have too much time or too much scope. You always have to be on top of your game,” he added.

Rohit Sharma did not react to Nehra blowing a kiss at him while he was on his way to the dugout — perhaps he had other things on his mind. However, for fast bowlers so used to getting the stick from explosive batsmen, Nehra’s wicket-taking ability comes like a kiss of life.