Ashish Nehra’s outstanding 6/23 in the 2003 World Cup Pool A encounter against England in South Africa is remembered as a defining spell for the former India pacer. But very few know the major obstacle that he had to overcome in order to deliver his magic under lights in Durban and help India win by 82 runs.
Nehra, in an incident revealing his pain bearing ability, played that match despite having a swollen leg the day before due to an injury and bowled his heart out even in great discomfort.
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In a video posted over his Facebook page, Nehra’s ex-Delhi and India teammate, Aakash Chopra, recalled what it was like for his friend, whom he also lauded for his passion and determination.
“World Cup 2003, India vs England on Durban pitch. It was a close contest. England were at 52/2 chasing 250. Ashish Nehra came into the attack,” said Chopra. “He takes a great run-up, gets a leading edge off from the bat and England captain Nasser Hussain had to return to the pavilion. Great breakthrough. Then, came Alex Tudor (It was Paul Collingwood). He got out LBW. Michael Vaughan was caught behind. With this, half of England’s team fell down like a pack of cards. The Indian lions roared.”
“But wait, you know this story, already right? Let me take you to the flashback, behind the scenes. This heavily swollen leg kept inside a bucket of ice… who is it? This is the same Ashish Nehra who, the very next day, stepped out on the field to rattle England batting unit with a swollen leg. As we say, there is nothing greater than a person’s will. Not even injuries. If Nehra ji has decided that he will play against England, then no one can stop him.”
“So, Nehra filled a buck full of ice, and kept his heavily swollen leg inside the bucket for hours. The next day, he heavily taped and bandaged his swollen leg, and wore thick, tight socks. Even though, it was even difficult for him to wear his shoes, he still got ready, stood up and went off to the field. With Dada’s (Sourav Ganguly’s) faith in him, and his self-believe, Nehra ji achieved wonders which no one expected.”
“Nehra took a 6-wicket haul – a feat which no other Indian bowler has been able to achieve during a World Cup game. The thing to remember here is that the records will continue to be broken. The real story is that of the passion, and not giving up. An injury can affect your body, but not your determination. Long Live, Nehra ji,” Chopra signed off.
Nehra’s spell allowed India to swiftly progress further in the tournament where Ganguly’s men eventually reached the final, losing only to the ultimate champions Australia.
The left-arm pacer retired after an injury-marred career in 2017, having played 17 Tests, 120 ODIs, 27 T20Is and taken nearly 250 international wickets.