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29 Mar 2020, Edition - 1720, Sunday

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Questions still linger about Nehra’s farewell game


The curious nature surrounding Ashish Nehra’s farewell game for India continues to raise eyebrows as the pacer revealed that he had not been in touch with chairman of selectors MSK Prasad, contrary to what the latter had previously stated.

In a press conference following the first T20I against New Zealand, Nehra was asked about his discussion with the selectors regarding his retirement plans and the pacer said, “I heard this [about Prasad’s quotes on the discussion]. I don’t know. The chairman of selection committee has not spoken to me about this. You have asked me this question, and I can only tell you about my interaction with the team management. When I reached Ranchi, I told Virat about my plan, and his first reaction was, ‘Are you sure?. You can still play IPL. You can play as coach-cum-player.’ I said no. I am retiring completely,” said Nehra.

“I have been saying this again and again. Luckily this game happened to be in Delhi. I have not asked for a farewell game or anything. This is perhaps one way that god has rewarded me for all the hard work I have put in over the last 10 years. I hope Virat and coach Ravi Shastri are part of team management because those are the people I spoke to. I have not spoken to any selector over this issue. If they told this, you can ask them,” he said before adding cheekily, “When I started playing cricket, I didn’t take any selector’s permission. When I am leaving, I am not leaving with their permission,” he added.

While announcing the squad for the T20I series agaist New Zealand, the chief selector had indicated that their plans had been clearly explained to Nehra. Prasad had said that they had informed Nehra that he was only being considered till the end of the New Zealand series. While Nehra has stated that the retirement was entirely his decision, the statement from Prasad indicated that perhaps Nehra was indirectly informed that his time was up. Nehra had been picked only for the first T20I against New Zealand in Delhi by the selectors and the chief selector had also said that the pacer was not an automatic choice in the eleven.

“See there is a lot of apprehensions going on about Ashish Nehra. I will make it very clear and candid to you, we all know that right from the word go that communication has been our strong point. We have clearly communicated to the player, i.e Ashish Nehra and to the team management that we are only looking at him till the New Zealand series. We can’t say that [if he will surely play in the Delhi T20I]. Whether he is going to play or not, it is clearly the team management and the selector to make a call, whoever it is. The think tank involved will be taking a call. There is no assurance from our side that he’s going to play or not. It will be decided on that particular day,” Prasad had said earlier.

The left-armer was not part of the playing XIs when India played Australia in three T20Is prior to the New Zealand series. Nehra said that the reason he wasn’t playing in the T20I series against Australia was out of his own volition. “Lot of people have been saying that Ashish Nehra didn’t play in the XI against Australia. My thought was that when I went there, I went with my retirement plan. I felt that Bhuvneshwar Kumar was ready. If you had seen earlier, I and Bumrah have been playing. Two spinners play, and the third fast bowler is Hardik Pandya. So Bhuvi misses out. He, too, had been a little up and down until this year’s IPL. After the IPL, I personally felt that this is the way forward, that as a bowler I will not like to keep playing at the expense of Bhuvi.

“If there is a big event down the line in five-six months, like the World Cup, or if I have a plan to play for the next two years, then I have earned this spot. If somebody plays better than me, he can take it. It is not as if I was getting any favours by being selected. You can check my record over the last two years, if you are fond of stats. When I was doing well, I said this to Virat and Ravi Shastri. I said it is not that I don’t want to play in the XI. ‘If you need three fast bowlers, I am here.’ Or if Virat says, ‘No, I want you,’ I was available. It rained in Hyderabad otherwise I was going to play that game. This is my decision for the betterment of the team. Even today people were wondering if Ashish Nehra will play or not, but if I was in the fifteen today, I was obviously going to play. I didn’t come to just look around,” Nehra said.

On November 1, India went in with five frontline bowlers (Nehra, Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar, Chahal, Axar) along with Hardik Pandya as the all-round option which was a marked deviation from their tactics so far of playing four frontline bowlers, along with Pandya. They still managed to take a 1-0 lead after beating New Zealand comfortably but questions remain over the comeback and retirement of Ashish Nehra.

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