Nehra opens fire
Whatís so special about Irfan Pathan, Ashish Nehra asks Ehtesham Hasan in Colombo
In the politically correct world of Indian cricket, with a straight-batted skipper at the head, Ashish Nehra stands out for his brutal honesty. The Delhi left-arm seamer, unlike most of his colleagues, isnít afraid to speak his mind, neither is the proven performer dying to become the poster-boy of Indian cricket.
In fine fettle right now, the 26-year-old has been the best bowler in the team in the three-nation tournament. In fact, Nehra was the only Indian bowler to have done well against Pakistan in the six-match one-day series last season.
In an exclusive interview with
Mumbai Mirror, he held nothing back.
Sri Lanka has generally been a good place for you...
Yes, I started my career here and since then, Iíve been to Sri Lanka five or six times. I have a fair idea how to bowl on these wickets.
Are you happy with your form?
I am of the opinion that cricket is a batsmanís game. But only a bowler can win you a match. If you have seen the last two matches, only 200 runs were scored. But nobody noticed that. Itís another thing that we lost the matches, but nobody gave the bowlers any credit.
How do you rate the competition in the team? Would you agree that Irfan Pathan has left the field behind?
I donít think anybody can take the lead in this game. If youíre saying Irfan Pathan has gone ahead of me, then just look at the last series against Pakistan ó he didnít perform well.
If you review the last three matches, Iíve bowled well. So I can easily say that Iím ahead in the race. Iím bowling first-change and he is been given the new ball. In the last series, he played one match, while I played all the matches and in that one too, his rhythm was bad. Pathan is a bowler who is only effective with the new ball. Iíve bowled with the new ball, first-change and the old ball.
As a senior partner, Iíve had to adjust more than him.
Why is that you have bowled a lot during the death? Do the captains rely more on you in tight situations?
You just said that Pathan has gone aheadÖ Now you say that the captain looks at me when the chips are down. The media feels that if Pathan has got the new ball then heís a better bowler than Ashish Nehra! Even Shoaib Akhtar and Allan Donald have bowled first-change in their careers.
As far as my cricketing knowledge goes, if Irfan bowls first-change in place of me, I donít think heíll do well. But when I bowl first-change, I take the responsibility of bowling well. You have to look at the team combination. Itís not true that the one who gets the new ball is ahead of the race.
You never seem to be in the limelight despite some good showings?
There are many people around who have done very little but their names have become big. Then there are people like Anil Kumble who have taken 460 test wickets... people who havenít even scored 460 runs are superstars in the eyes of the people!
Kumble is a player who still sits out of the team and delivers water to players like Venugopal Rao and Suresh Raina in the middle. My role models are not Tendulkar or Ganguly, itís Kumble. Every body talks about Rahul Dravid as a match-winner, but if you look at the records in the last 10-15 years, no one has been a bigger match-winner than Kumble.
Even today, people take Harbhajan Singhís name more than his even though Bhajji has not taken half the number of wickets. Iím sure heíll reach there, but hats off to Kumble who just keeps on going quietly.
At times, I sit and wonder why I donít get enough credit for my work. If you look at the last Pakistan series there were many who didnít play. Zaheer Khan and I were the only guys who played. I was the highest wicket-taker in that series. But I never won any praise for my performance. There are some who will not even take half-a-wicket but they earn more praise.
Do you think youíve been unlucky with injuries?
Every bowler has to deal with injuries, but Iíve had to deal with it in a big way. In the last two or three years Iíve learnt how to live and play with injuries. Whenever I found my self in good shape, an injury was just round the corner. I agree that Iíve missed a lot of cricket, but if you see my records in the last year or so, Iíve taken more wickets than anyone else.
The thing is I donít look like a top wicket-taker nor would I like to look like one. But whenever Iím given the ball, whether itís the last over at Karachi or the slog overs in the last series, I never shy away.
For any bowler, bowling from the 15th over to the 35th is easy. But when you are up against Andrew Symonds, Abdul Razzaq or Inzamam ul Haq in the last five overs, itís different. I think only Zaheer and Iíve been doing that for the last five years.
If Irfan Pathan does that then you can say that he is ahead of us.