Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium was on the verge of history when India took on New Zealand in the first of three T20I matches yesterday (November 1). The men in blue were hoping for their first win in the stadium. But all eyes were set on one man firmly. The veteran pacer Ashish Nehra aka ‘Nehra-ji’ amongst his adoring fans, took to the field for his last ever cricket match. His team honored him with a sensational performance with both the ball & the bat, beating the Kiwis by a margin of 53 runs and sending one of their very own a fitting goodbye.
Batting first, India posted a huge total 202 for 3, thanks to both openers Rohit Sharma & local boy Shikhar Dhawan scoring 80 each. Captain Virat Kohli’s cameo of 26 off just 11 helped the score over 200. In reply, the Kiwis didn’t put up much of a fight, being reduced to 149 in their allocated 20 overs. Fittingly, it was Nehra who bowled the last over the innings amidst huge cheers from his fans. Nehra ended his career with figures if 29 for none in 4 overs.
In the post match presentation ceremony, Nehra said, “I will miss all this. That’s what you train for. Like I said earlier, one thing that will be in peace is my body. I really pushed myself. I could have pushed for another two months or years, but who knows you can’t get better and bigger than this retiring in blue clothes. It was the right time. I must be one bowler who bowled the most number of last overs for India, but it was different sort of pressure. Virat [Kohli] was on my case for the last 2-3 overs and I said I will bowl the last over”.
Nehra added, “It is a big change and I have seen 18-19 years, I played my first game here in 1997 and there have been drastic changes. The rules have been changed and so many runs being scored. This is an amazing team and Indian cricket is in good hands for next 7-8 years. Every 8-10 years game changes and I don’t like to compare generations. Earlier we had superb players, [Sourav] Ganguly, MS [Dhoni] or Sachin [Tendulkar], I can’t name everybody. All in all it has been a great journey”.
A nostalgic Nehra went on: “More than one performance I would say it’s the memory that matters more. In India people remember the memories more. I have told Viru [Sehwag] before: he has scored so many runs, but people remember him as Multan ka Sultan (for the Test triple-century at the ground). Maybe the Karachi last over. Or people may even remember Nehra for bowling the last over against South Africa in the World Cup  and we lost. Many people asked me if you would have liked to play more Test cricket. But I think I am very fortunate to be standing here, retiring after 18 years, retiring in blue clothes in your home ground, I have no regrets. The crowd has been a great support. I am always happy whether I am retired or not.”
Adios, Nehra ji! It’s been an honor.