If you would have been a spectator at the Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium on Wednesday for the first T-20 match between India and New Zealand, you would know. The Stadium End of Kotla boldly read ‘Ashish Nehra End’. Albeit just for a day, it was an official designation, a tribute to one of India’s world cup hero, playing his final game. It was Nehra's night and his mates in blue made sure he remembers it for a long long time.
India’s goodbye to Nehra was indeed a memorable one. A farewell, very few athletes in any form of the game have received so far. By the time Ashish Nehra bowled his final delivery, India had broken the jinx and beaten New Zealand for the first time ever in a T-20 match.
It all started with a tribute by Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma who did what no other opening pair has ever done in T-20 cricket – bat till the 16th over. Nehra’s last two captains in his 18 years long career started their innings by hitting a six straight towards the stand bearing his name. Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni kept the party on and the nostalgia was all around the stadium.
Nehra running from his end, the first to do so after James Anderson had bowled a fine cutter beating the opponent but Dhoni’s outstretched palms had mistimed a lost opportunity. But the grimace soon gave way to a smile and the memories of Nehra unapologetically swearing at a young Dhoni for dropping Shahid Afridi came flooding back. Then, Kohli palmed away Kane Williamson's lofted drive at mid-off. This time the smile seemed to pardon the 'little boy' who once received a trophy from Nehra.
In a video posted by BCCI, Nehra is seen showcasing some brilliant football skill. Kohli and leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal look completely stunned. Kohli, himself a big football buff, is seen sporting a big smile and praising the left-arm pacer's skills with his feet.
— BCCI (@BCCI) November 1, 2017
As Nehra walked out of the ground, carried by Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan on their shoulder, the stadium could be heard crying out ‘Nehra Ji’ just to make you realize that cricket has grown substantially on the energy and exuberance and it was all thanks to the boys from the 2003 team who had made it possible for the youngsters to dream of becoming a cricketer in a country like India.In his 18-year career, Nehra's most iconic moment on the field for India came during the 2003 World Cup against England. The speedster claimed a magnificent 6/23 and helped India register a comprehensive win.Nehra was also part Indian team that won the 2011 World Cup.