Ashish Nehra has been superb in IPL 2015 so far for Chennai Super Kings © AFP
Ashish Nehra has been superb in IPL 2015 so far for Chennai Super Kings © AFP

Ashish Nehra has starred for the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2015 so far. The left-arm pacer was a part of the Indian one-day side until 2011 and had performed admirably since his comeback in 2009. Yet, India dropped him, which was quite surprising as they went through a tough phase. Nishad Pai Vaidya traces the Nehra journey.

From his return to national colours in June 2009 to April 2011, this fast bowler was the second highest wicket-taker in One-Day Internationals (ODIs). Normally, any team would have persisted with such a bowler at a time when they are going through a tough phase, facing a slump after the highs of winning the World Cup. However, Ashish Nehra was dropped after the ICC Cricket  World Cup 2011 for reasons unknown. Four years down the line, an older and wiser Nehra is making his mark on the Indian Premier League (IPL). Nehra: Bowlers win matches in T20s

Nehra has been the critics’ favourite target — the butt of jokes on  social media. Why? Because Robin Peterson hit him for 13 runs in the last over of the IndiaSouth Africa World Cup game in 2011, which was the only defeat along the way. Also, because AB de Villiers, with all his uncanny mastery and Saurabh Tiwary scripted a similar finish in an IPL game in 2012. And also, because he had the tendency to be expensive at times. To get a better picture, you have to look beyond those isolated instances and consider the good he has done. Ashish Nehra: Mr Glass of Indian cricket

Although Nehra had those two tough experiences in the last overs, he was one bowler who more often than not defended runs well. Go back to the last over of the first One-Day International (ODI) between Pakistan and India at Karachi in 2004. Nehra was the man who defended those runs and won India their first game on that historic tour. Fast forward to 2010 when he bowled another last over to help India defend a 400-plus total with Sri Lanka threatening to get close. If you will consistently bowl last overs in tight finishes, you will have a few going against you. That is the nature of the game. Why Ashish Nehra was shocked!

Nehra has been one of India’s best one-day bowlers since the turn of the century, yet he hasn’t got his due. In 120 matches, he has 157 wickets at an average of 31.72. His economy rate is 5.19, which isn’t bad considering the fact that he bowled at a time when the nature of the game was changing. He lost out on a few years due to injury problems but returned strong in 2009 with a great IPL performance behind. From June 2009 to the World Cup, Nehra was easily India’s best one-day bowler. Here are the top five wicket-takers in that phase (From June 2009 to April 2011). Ashish Nehra could earn place in Indian team

Player M W Ave BB Eco
Shakib Al Hasan 46 69 27.46 4/33 4.6
Ashish Nehra 48 65 32.64 4/40 5.85
Shahid Afridi 44 60 30.16 5/16 4.6
Shane Watson 53 60 24.96 4/36 4.93
Abdur Razzak 36 58 25.51 5/29 4.56

Four years down the line, Nehra has only proven his point. Not only has he shown great guile during this IPL and the last Champions League T20 (CLT20) but has also brushed aside those notions about him. The remarkable thing is that despite his age, he continues to bowl at a very good pace. How did the selectors keep him out in 2011?

(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a Correspondent with CricketCountry and anchor for the site’s YouTube Channel. His Twitter handle is @nishad_45)