After making another stunning comeback to international cricket, veteran Indian pacer Ashish Nehra dismissed the age-related criticism, stating that one practice game is all what he needs to get into the groove. Nehra removed two batsmen in successive balls and picked up another wicket later in the second T20I against England, which India won by five runs.
"Whether I'm playing 50 overs or T20 or if I'm bowling in the nets with a single stump to aim at, I've never felt short of match practice. It takes me only one game to get back into the groove," asserted the 37-year-old left-arm pacer.
Nehra played in the World T20 hosted by India in early 2016 and then the subsequent Indian Premier League before taking a break from cricket to undergo a knee surgery.
"I will play domestic cricket in the coming months - 50 overs and T20 and there's IPL too for two months. I believe if you've been playing so much for so long, match practic e is very important whether you're a bowler or batsman. "People like me or MS Dhoni who are not playing Test cricket right now, we have to play domestic games and ultimately experience does matter," he said.
Nehra dismissed the notion that age is against him and said it was just a number and he will keep playing as long as he's fit.
"Regarding age, unfortunately in India, if you keep performing well then people will praise you. And if the team loses couple of matches, then people won't criticize the rest of the 15 but will say Ashish Nehra should be dropped. It doesn't make a difference to me but age is just a number.
"I know how hard it is to stay fit because I'm a fast bowler and I bowl in the beginning and end both. But I'm enjoying my game and till my body is fit, I'll keep trying and playing. I played the last game after 7-8 months but I didn't feel I was short of practice or anything. When you are playing day in and day out, you get better with time but I personally don't feel that rusty or anything," he said.
About Sunday's game that India won from a difficult position, Nehra said when a team was defending a small total early wickers were a must and he got them.
"When you are defending a score like 145, it is important to pick up a wicket up front, which we got in my over. It puts pressure on the batsman. With the wicket slow, if you take two-three wickets early then the batsman will be on the back-foot.
"If Amit Mishra had not bowled a no-ball, we could have been in the game earlier. When Ben Stokes hit two sixes and a four, they were ahead. It keeps going up and down. You cannot say anything in a T20 till it's over," he said referring to Mishra dismissing Stokes but the ball being declared a no-ball.
Nehra said the key to bowling well at the death, for which he praised teammate and man-of-the-match Jasprit Bumrah, is to "keep backing yourself mentally".
"You practice the skills in the nets, but I personally feel as a bowler it is mental toughness that counts. It is not the first time that Jasprit and I are bowling together in the death. It's always difficult for a bowler to bowl four overs in the death with a wet ball.
"When I came they needed 32 off four overs, and I knew this has to be over where we have to pull it off. Luckily it happened that over went for five or six and Ben Stokes got out. We were back in the game, but my last over was fine till the last ball went for a six. Had I picked up a wicket, we would have had 15 to defend in the final over and Jasprit Bumrah's bowling is not easy to score. He still did the job."
Nehra said Bumrah's speciality was in death over bowling. "I was confident after (Jos) Buttler got out that Jasprit will do the job. I have been playing T20s with him for the last one year and he backs himself in the death. Bumrah's strength is bowling with the old ball - whether it's the slower ball or yorker. He's learning day by day and he will only get better from here.
"In the one-day series we saw 350 and 380 were scored but Bumrah still bowled five or at least three overs in the end. He will have to be mentally strong from here that in a match with 360 or 380 being scored, you will probably be hit for 75-odd runs if you bowl four overs in the end. His growth will be an asset in the coming time for Indian cricket."
Asked to compare his own bowling with that of younger teammate, Nehra said they are "completely different bowlers." "He may bowl a one-off over with the new ball whereas I bowl three overs up front because I know that the team wants me to strike early, especially while defending such a 130-140 types total. I need to pick wickets early in such games. If you don't do that, it's highly unlikely that you can come back in such games.
"On the other hand, Bumrah is an excellent bowler and his speciality is bowling at death. Just like Lasith Malinga - he was an asset with the old ball. Bumrah has a slightly awkward action so a new batsman can't really pick him easily. He has a good slower one and a yorker. Bumrah is a very important player in this team, whether it's ODIs or T20s."
(With inputs from PTI)