‘Ask any sportsman, what it takes to recover from one and here I have been under the knife 12 times’
‘Still in the morning, when I wake up, I am keen to go for training’
Ready for yet another international comeback, veteran Ashish Nehra is hardly bothered about the doubters and cynics as he revels in the feeling of being a sought after pacer for India at the age of 38.
Nehra has been recalled to the side for a three-match T20 series (the only format that he plays), having last competed for the country against England, earlier this year. He had suffered an injury during the Indian Premier League after the England assignment at home.
"Who isn't happy if he is playing for India? I have never been bothered by criticism. The Indian dressing room knows what I bring to the table. The skipper knows it, the selectors know it. If I am in the team, definitely, I must be contributing something," Nehra said.
Asked about his targets, the genial Nehra replied: "At my age, you don't set long term goals. I have been selected to play three games for India. I will take one game at a time. Waise bhi Ashish Nehra accha karega toh bhi news hai, accha nahi karega toh woh aur bhi badi news hain (If I do well, that's news, if I don't do well, that's even bigger news)."
He has recently started using a smartphone and by his own admission, he is light years away from Facebook and Twitter.
Does he get perturbed by all the Twitter jokes on his age? Nehra responds by breaking into a laughter.
"I don't even know what people say about me on Twitter. Now people may have a notion that since I am not visible on social media and now that I am in the team, where was I during the period. Well, I was religiously following my training schedule, working on my fitness, doing my bowling routines. Things you actually do to make a comeback," the answer said it all.
"Oh yes, people didn't know where I was but skipper Virat Kohli and chairman of selectors MSK Prasad were well aware what I was doing," added the Delhi speedster, who has played 26 T20 Internationals apart from 120 ODIs and 17 Test matches.
Nehra still works up pace in the 140 clicks region consistently, something one doesn't associate with pacers of his age.
Questioned about it, Nehra spoke about how his approach to fast bowling has been different from Zaheer Khan, who cut down on pace with focus on variations during the second stage of his career.
"With Zak, you have to take into account he was playing Tests throughout his career. He had to bowl a lot of overs and that required him to conserve energy carefully. Also he had such an economic action, he could bowl at 80 per cent pace but with superb skill-sets disturb the batsmen.
"If you look at me, I have been playing T20s for quite sometime now. With my action, which is not the smoothest, I cannot bowl at 80 per cent when all I have is 24 balls in a match. Another aspect is that, this is my action which has helped me generate the kind of pace I do at this age," Nehra explained.
He is at the business end of his career but wearing the India Blues is still a motivation even if it means not more than 7-8 matches a year.
“Come February, 2018, I will complete 19 years in international cricket. Save myself and Harbhajan Singh, I don't think there is any player, who made their debuts under Mohammed Azharuddin. There has to be some kind of motivation that keeps a sportsman going," said Nehra.
"And this stage of my career, I don't need to play for money. I have had 12 surgeries. Ask any sportsman, what it takes to recover from one and here I have been under the knife 12 times.
"Still in the morning, when I wake up, I am keen to go for training. That's the motivation," he signed off as he got ready for a final session with Himachal Pradesh pacers, whom he had been giving tips to in Dharamsala for the past three days.