Mumbai: Ashish Nehra, who is working towards returning to top-grade cricket after surgery on his right ankle over six months ago, was the cynosure at the Wankhede on Thursday afternoon.
Indeed, there was as much attention on him as on Sachin Tendulkar and stand-in captain Rahul Dravid. And, at the end of what normally would have been many overs, coach John Wright was distinctly pleased.
“Nehra looked good... He had a long bowl and didn’t show signs of not being fit. However, it’s going to be (physio) Andrew Leipus’ call... The green signal, so to say, must come from him,” Wright told The Telegraph.
The coach, of course, clarified Nehra isn’t Team India’s 15th member: “Look, we’ve called him over only to assess his fitness and see whether he can be considered for the three tri-series (league) matches after the one here...”
Nehra, it may be recalled, was with Dravid and Co. throughout the recent Mohali Test against New Zealand. Then, the ‘focus’ was largely on his fitness. After all, he hasn’t played after the World Cup final in Johannesburg.
Leipus, for his part, pointed out that while Nehra was “definitely fit” for limited overs cricket, the national selectors should decide whether he will be better off first playing in the Ranji Trophy (for Delhi).
“Nehra has come through exceedingly well at the nets but, then, competitive cricket is quite something else... Frankly, I’m myself not sure whether he should come back (to the international circuit) only after a couple of domestic games,” Leipus said.
Understandably, the left-arm quick is keen to make a quick return. “I’m fit and, after the Mohali Test, I played a series of local matches in Delhi... I’m confident of not breaking down, though I understand the latter half of the season is very important,” Nehra maintained, interacting with the Media.
In fact, with New Delhi okaying bilateral cricket with Pakistan at the seniors’ level, the trip across our western border is as (if not more) important than the forthcoming tour of Australia.
Meanwhile, the Team India XI which played in Chennai (versus New Zealand) and Gwalior (against Australia) is set to be retained for Saturday’s game versus Ricky Ponting’s men.
Back in Calcutta, by the way, regular captain Sourav Ganguly had two stitches removed during the day. The others will be cut “after a few days.” It’s still not clear when exactly will he take the field again.