Ashish Nehra, who played an integral part in the 2011 World Cup semi-final, recalled that he came to know 48 hours before the final that he wouldn’t be part of the playing XI. Nehra also recollected how the team stuck by the plan and also credited Raina and Sehwag for the semi-final win.
Post the 1983 World-Cup win, India had a unique opportunity to win the World Cup in 2011 but the ghosts of 2007 always made it a daunting prospect. Despite the presence of senior pros in the team, the integration of the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina made the team stronger, on paper.
India’s biggest test came in the semi-final, against Pakistan, where they could only manage a total of 260 on the board, with handy contributions from openers - Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag and a Suresh Raina cameo to lift the total. However, Pakistan got off to a near-perfect start and looked like they would race past the target. But timely bowling changes allowed India to claw back and win the encounter.
Ashish Nehra, who was part of the semi-final, recalled that post the semi-final and two days before the final, he came to know that he wasn’t part of the playing XI because of his injury. The left-arm seamer, who played a vital role insisted that he has no hard feelings of missing the final but added that he tried to help the team at all times possible.
“I came to know 48 hours before the final that I was not playing. When I left Chandigarh, I left thinking I’d play the final but my hand got so big that it needed surgery. By that time, I had enough experience, I was nearing 32, and I was part of the World Cup before also (in 2003). No point now in sitting and crying that I could not play the World Cup final. Whichever way I could help the team, I was happy. I knew I could not go inside the field. I knew I could not field. At least I could serve water to the players. I moved on,” Nehra told News 18.
On the other hand, the left-arm seamer pointed out the several top innings from the World Cup, including Gautam Gambhir’s 97, MS Dhoni’s 91 and Suresh Raina’s 36 against Pakistan. He also added that Sehwag’s start in the semi-final, where he smashed the Pakistani bowlers in the powerplay, gave India the impetus.
“In an event like the World Cup, plenty of innings were special. For me, Gautam Gambhir’s (97) final innings was very special. MS Dhoni’s (91 not out) final innings was equally special. Suresh Raina’s (36 not out) semifinal innings, the kind of start Virender Sehwag (38 in 25 balls) gave in the semifinal. Sehwag and Raina did not score fifties in that match but to me, they were important innings to reach 260,” he said.
“People talk about MS Dhoni’s innings but to me, Gautam Gambhir’s innings was as special as MS Dhoni’s. Yuvraj as a fifth bowler although we had options in Virender Sehwag, Sachin Tendulkar, Suresh Raina or Yusuf Pathan whenever he played, they rarely bowled. Yuvraj did the fifth bowler’s job so well. Giving Yuvraj confidence, bowling him in South Africa was a big thing,” he added.
He also revealed that he had no idea about Yuvraj Singh’s pain at that time and credited the all-rounder for pulling it all off despite going through a lot.
“I had no idea he was going through pain. When we were playing the West Indies in Chennai, he was telling he was feeling tired. I told him, ‘go and sleep, you will be fine. Switch on the AC’. Even after the World Cup, when he told me in Bangalore, where I was doing rehab, I told him, ‘come let’s have biryani’. We had no idea what he was going through. Credit to him, he managed to pull off.”