Ashish Nehra announced earlier in the month that he will be retiring from all formats of the game after the 1st T20I against New Zealand. (Source: File)
India take on New Zealand in the first of a three-match T20I series on Wednesday at Delhi’s Feroz Shah Kotla stadium. With India having made a habit of pulverizing sides at home regardless of the format, the Delhi crowd will be focussing more on a very familiar figure in the Indian blue rather than the match itself. Rarely has the lanky, 6-foot-something figure of Ashish Nehra drawn any applause just for its mere presence but that is what one can expect whenever the veteran pacer runs in with the ball at the Kotla. It will be the last time India sees him do so as he announced earlier in the month that he will retire after the first T20I.
As far as the match itself is concerned, New Zealand will be hoping to get off to the kind of start that they did in the ODI series and capitalise on it this time. They won the first ODI in Mumbai. India were thus in unfamiuliar territory, trailing in a series at home after the first match. But New Zealand were found out in the second and third ODIs and went on to lose the series 2-1. They might take comfort in their record against India in the shortest format of the game. In the five times that the two sides have faced each other in T20Is, India are yet to beat New Zealand. In fact, India have lost all the matches they have played against New Zealand so far in the shortest format of the game, whether at home or away.
The match will also mark an end to an 18-year international career that started with a Test match against Sri Lanka in 1999 at Colombo. Nehra was only a year older than how long his international career has gone on, and his domestic career has been even longer than that. He clarified that he would be ending both on Wednesday and also ruled himself out of the IPL too. Nehra said that, although he is confident of going for “another couple of years” but his body doesn’t allow him to do so. His career has been blighted by injuries but he has been with India on a quite a few important junctures. He was an integral part of the side that went to the final of the 2003 World Cup under Sourav Ganguly. He later went on to win the trophy in 2011 and led India’s pace department when they went to the semi-final of the T20I World Cup in 2016.
The first match of the series hence comes with two major undertones. It will feature Ashish Nehra bowling for the very last time and taking the bat if necessary, although India will be hoping it doesn’t come to that. India will be looking to mark that occasion with a first ever T20I win against Blackcaps.