Former India fast bowler Ashish Nehra recently narrated a funny anecdote involving former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar. The incident goes back to one of the rare times when Pakistan outplayed their neighbours in an International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament.
What people see from the outside during India-Pakistan matches are rivalry and sledging. What they don't see, however, are the banter and the great friendships that have evolved over the years.
“In 2004 we were playing Champions Trophy game in Birmingham. India batted first and we scored some 200 runs,” Nehra said on Wisden’s Greatest Rivalry podcast.
“We lost that game in the end. I was the last guy out and Shoaib Akhtar bowled one short ball. I tried to pull it and got out caught at mid-wicket. Shahid Afridi took the catch and then he’s telling me in Punjabi ‘before you pull, you should know who you’re facing,” added the left-armer.
After electing to field, the Pakistan pacers had blown away the India top order, reducing them to 28 for 3. India, however, managed to reach 200, courtesy a fighting 67 from Rahul Dravid and a counter-attacking 47 off 50 balls by Ajit Agarkar lower down the order.
Pakistan were also placed at a similarly precarious 27 for 3, but an unbeaten 81 by Mohammad Yousuf and a gritty 41 by their captain Inzamam-ul-Haq got them over the line with four balls to spare.
Banter always on the cards: Ashish Nehra on his bond with Shoaib Akhtar
While fans might have taken the incident as sledging, Nehra said that it was all in humour and that he continues to be friends with some of the Pakistani players, including Shoaib Akhtar.
“Shoaib Akhtar is a great friend, no doubt about it. Whenever we’re in England and even till today. After 3-4 months, we message each other and a banter is going on,” Nehra concluded.