Former Indian captain Sourav Ganguly heaped praise on Ashish Nehra's never-give-up attitude while highlighting his ability to make comebacks despite the injuries that pegged him back throughout his career.
The 38-year-old brought the curtains down on his 18-year-long international career at his home ground - Feroz Shah Kotla - in New Delhi on Wednesday, November 1 after India won the first of the ongoing three-match T20I series against New Zealand.
After making his international debut way back in 1999, the World Cup-winning pacer was never able to cement a permanent spot for himself even during his heydays. His career was always a case of what-ifs as the lanky left-armer had undergone numerous surgeries over the years.
As Nehra himself concedes, he might not be recognised for his numbers (235 wickets from 164 internationals) but definitely for his ability to bounce back from crisis situations.
'He looked a different cricketer...'
Ganguly, under whom Nehra along with Yuvraj Singh, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh flourished as young stars, also heaped praise on the way the veteran pacer bowled in his final T20I outing on Wednesday. Notably, Kohli gave his senior bowler the full quota of four overs, which went for just 29 runs in a high-scoring encounter.
"I think his best friend was the physio. I think he probably spent more time with the physio than his wife, Ganguly told "India Today" on Thursday, November 2.
He added: "His [Nehra's] body didn't hold up for most part of his career. But he was extremely gifted that he continued even after all these injuries. He is very competitive, he never gave up.
"He might have been fragile, he had injuries. Fielding was not a part of his repertoire. When it came to bowling, when he got the white ball, he looked a different cricketer.
"It [the farewell] is fantastic. Not many have the luck to finish in their home ground. Sachin Tendulkar had it and now Ashish Nehra. Good to see selectors showing faith in him. Even in his last game, he bowled well. It's difficult to bowl in Kotla, but he did well."
The story behind Nehra's 6 for 23 in Durban
Ganguly revealed how difficult it was to leave Nehra out of the team as the latter would always end up at the hotel room, arguing against the captain's decision.
The prolific Indian captain also shed light on how Nehra fought a severe ankle injury at the 2003 World Cup to come up with his best ODI figures of 6 for 23 against England in Durban.
In chase of 251 against Ganguly's Team India, England were treated to a fast-bolwing masterclass from Nehra that saw them get bundled out for just 168.
"Nehra is someone who just remains happy whether he plays or not. That's the best thing. He always is smiling. I dealt with him when he was young. Every time when I had to leave him out, every time I told Nehra 'Ashu you're not part of the game', I knew the doorbell would ring after the game," Ganguly said.
"He wouldn't say anything before or during the game, but exactly at 11pm, when you reach the hotel, the doorbell would ring. And Ashish walks in, in his shorts and slippers, with his fragile legs and with hands inside his T-shirt, rubbing his belly he would ask 'why did i not get picked'.
"I would tell him, 'I wanted to give someone else the opportunity, someone else has performed better'.
"It was then all the stats would come up. He would say 'I can bowl at 149 for you. Do you think I am not fit. Give me the ball, I will show you'.
"He did exactly that in South Africa. He slipped in the game against Namibia, he had a hugely swollen ankle. We had the game against England in the next three or four days. I asked Ashish what to do with him.
"He said, 'just put my name and I will run in for you'. He did just that. His best bowling figures came against England in that match. That's the speciality of Nehra, he never gives up."