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The trio of Rahul Dravid, Amit Mishra and Ashish Nehra has a point to prove.

Wednesday, August 19, 2021

Season of comeback

Anupam Pratihary

The only thing certain about Cricket is its uncertainties. If precocious talents have disappeared without a trace, there have been as many down-in-the-trenches-and-back sort of stories that make this game a metaphor for life.

For Indian cricket, this seems to be a season of comebacks. From a batsman of impeccable pedigree to volatile bowling talent with fragile constitution to yet another wrist spinner, all three have scripted their fascinating story of comeback. The trio is as different as haute couture is from prêt-a-porter, but what unites them is their extraordinary determination and resilience to bounce back. What also quite curiously unites them is IPL-II, where the trio rediscovered their magic and presented their cases before the selectors.

The tide has finally turned in their favour; Rahul Dravid, Ashish Nehra and Amit Mishra will be donning the blue jersey of India. Yet again.

It took slightly over six years for Mishra, the Haryana leg-spinner, to get his blue jersey back. The journey was peppered with despair and ignominy, but the genial leg-spinner never compromised on toil. In domestic cricket, Mishra chanced his arms against every batsman he came across; it was a slow but sure way of perfecting his art. It was important to keep the process going. And when an opportunity presented itself in the form of IPL-II, he finished with an impressive 14 victims from 11 matches. The performance couldn’t have been lost on the selectors.

Delighted at the recall, the diminutive leggie is now busy watching videos of his prospective victims. Their moves have to be read well; the arc of their bat has to be understood, after all the web of spin has to be diabolic and decisive.

With a paradigm shift under Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Dravid — the master of touch and timing — found himself grappling with the tenets of power cricket. Before he could realize, he was relegated to the sidelines of the shorter version of the game. It wasn’t happening to him for the first time. The ODI format has been guilty of playing the catch-me-if-you-can game with Dravid earlier. Last time around, he even took to wicket-keeping to keep his place in the side. This time, he chose only his willow. South Africa offered a perfect platform to showcase his class and thankfully runs flowed from his willow generously. It helped to perfectly camouflage the age factor under the garb of experience. The batting behemoth from Bangalore returns to Indian team after two years to lend what he epitomizes the most — solidity.

He always wondered who wrote his script. One match he’ll floor the opposition with his whippy action and controlled movement and next he’ll find himself sitting out, warming the pavilion with an ice pack. Injuries have plagued left-arm medium pacer Ashish Nehra like a virus from the sub-Sahara region. Dropped from the Indian team, way back in 2005, nobody gave him a chance in hell. He started getting discussed in hushed tones. It had begun to hurt him but he won’t show it. A mere change in jersey from Mumbai Indians to Delhi Daredevils in the IPL-II revived the wicket-taking conveyor belt in him. He finished the tournament with an impressive 19 wickets from 13 matches at an average of 6.78. Though technically he returned to ODI in the last West Indies series in June-July, but the real comeback for him begins this season. And he knows it.

Nehra will be spearheading India’s bowling attack along with RP Singh in the coming two tournaments. The Delhi daredevil has regained his place after a gap of four years.

In this season of comeback, determination will fuel their aspiration. They want their place in the sun back. After all, the only certain thing in cricket is its uncertainties. They should know better.