Former India pacer Zaheer Khan joined the rest of the cricketing fraternity in paying tribute for the just-retired Ashish Nehra, who called time on his 18 year-old international career on Wednesday, saying he admired some of the weapons in the latter’s bowling arsenal.

Virat Kohli and Co. registered a handsome 53-run win against New Zealand at Delhi in what was Nehra’s final match.

Khan, who spent much of the early part of his career bowling in tandem with Nehra said of his former colleague: “As a fellow fast bowler I always aspired to that extra bounce Ashish could extract, which was a result of his high-arm action. His long bowling stride, as opposed to mine which was short, really gave him the advantage to get on top and extract that extra bounce. Because of that bounce batsmen could not score runs easily against Ashish in One-day Internationals,” Khan wrote in his ESPNCricinfo column.

Nehra’s off-field personality has earned a cult following among teammates and fans alike. Khan weighed in: “The fact that Ashish is very expressive became evident right from the moment I met him for the first time in 2001 during the Zimbabwe tour. He likes talking and this is something you really cannot escape from so you just have to sit and listen to him.”

‘Ashish one of the finest’

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For some, Nehra has been an enigma, having played only 160 international matches across 18 seasons. The 38-year-old has also been the target of internet trolls and his unconventional run-up to the crease often being a subject of ridicule in certain quarters.

Khan, however, thinks that Nehra deserves to be talked about in the same breath as some of the finest left-arm pacers. “Left-arm fast bowling is not an easy trade to master. Luckily some of the best have come from the sub-continent: Wasim Akram and Chaminda Vaas top that list. It would not be inaccurate to place Ashish somewhere close to that bracket of good fast bowlers. His run-up, which we always made fun of, was really hard and he had to put in a lot of effort.”

‘He has set an example’

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Nehra’s unforgettable spell against England at Durban in the 2003 World Cup, which saw him finish with immaculate figures of 6/23, dwarfs every other landmark in the Delhi pacer’s career. Such was the spell’s impact, which saw him outsmart the English batsman by prodding them in the off-stump channel.

Khan shed light on Nehra’s approach in that game, “He took six wickets against England, but for me the way he got rid of Michael Vaughan was the best. Most of the wickets he got in that match were going away from the right-hander and forcing a nick off the bat. He was getting the exact movement required to get the edge. He was bowling in an area where you had to play the delivery. You could not let it go. Vaughan was a victim of that accurate plan.”

He added, “Ashish has actually set an example because he kept believing in himself and kept coming back. It is not easy to make a comeback from a big injury, especially for a fast bowler, and he has made it a habit. Ashish has inspired many players to stretch their careers. Many times in your career you think you are done, but it is not the case. Ashish Nehra is the best example.”