| Nehra’s parents and brother in their Delhi home. Picture by Rajesh Kumar
New Delhi, Feb. 27: Last year, Mohammad Kaif’s family was feted no end after he played a magical innings at Lord’s to help India lift the Natwest Trophy.
Now, it’s the turn of the Nehras in the Delhi Cantonment area. After Ashish snapped up six wickets against England to put India firmly on the road to a Super-Six berth, the phone hasn’t stopped ringing in their house.
Ashish Nehra’s family hasn’t slept since 2 last night, nor has the telephone. The congratulatory calls and requests for interviews are pouring in.
Diwan Singh Nehra, Ashish’s father, doesn’t mind taking the calls. Diwan and his wife, Sumitra, are relishing every moment of glory their son has brought to the family and the nation.
But the call they are waiting for hasn’t come yet. The family is anxious to speak to Ashish. His elder brother, Dinkar, tried contacting him at his Durban hotel this afternoon, but he was not available. They will call again later, Dinkar said.
Within a couple of days, the family has swung from anxiety to euphoria. There was an element of suspense when Ashish twisted his ankle in the match against Namibia. When they spoke to him then, Diwan said, Ashish was very keen to continue in the playing XI.
He did, and emerged with the best World Cup bowling figures for India. Ask Diwan and Sumitra how they feel about Ashish’s performance and the only word that comes out is “amazing”.
“I had never thought he would be coming out with his career-best figure of 6 wickets, though he is capable of knocking a couple of them down every time he walks into the field,” said Diwan Singh, assistant manager with the Delhi state civil supplies department.
Perhaps Sumitra’s joy is that bit more. Ashish’s worst critic is the person he likes the most — his mother. A Sanskrit teacher in a government school, Sumitra keeps a hawk’s eye on his performance and makes it a point to let his son know where he faltered.
“Since my husband doesn’t talk much cricket with Ashish, I end up chatting with him about the nitty-gritties,” Sumitra said. But the task is tough. Ashish’s moods swing as much as his deliveries. “He is too moody. So I try to put my views in a different way. Otherwise, he gets angry and says ‘Stop coaching me’,” Sumitra said.
Ashish has had no dearth of role models in the family to take to cricket. Diwan said two of his brothers bowled for their colleges at the district level. They couldn’t go far, but their nephew has made it up for the Nehras.
However, injuries could prove to be a hurdle for Ashish, who idolises Wasim Akram. His family blamed his poor eating habits for his problems. The robust Diwan even joked that he has inherited his frail frame from his mother.
As the family basked in the glory of Ashish, they also must have been praying that he repeats his performance often enough. They wouldn’t have forgotten that after all the adulation heaped on Kaif’s family in Allahabad, the walls of his house were tarred after the dismal performance against Australia.