Dear Ashish,

Like every cricket fan, I grew up worshipping the batsmen.

People like Sachin, Dravid and Ganguly.

That’s where the entertainment lies.

Bowlers often get ignored.

I don’t want to talk about your records,

I don’t want to talk about your statistics.

Quite honestly, they don’t do justice to your ability.

I remember you getting injured before the 2011 World Cup final.

You deserved to play that night.

You had played a huge part in the semis against our arch rivals.

You stepped up when it mattered most.

But that’s what you do, isn’t it?

You step up.

The numbers haven’t been on your side.

Not even when it comes to your age.

You’re 38 now. 

But you don’t see it that way.

That’s just us. We are the ones who put our trust in numbers.

When we should put more trust in trust itself.

A trust you never broke.

We may have forgotten about you countless times.

But you never did.

You never give anything less than your best.

Injuries came, injuries went.

But you remained. 

Most of us don’t know what it is like to play for the country.

But it’s men like you who show us the true meaning of patriotism.

We never gave you glory, we never gave you the spotlight.

But you, you wonderful man, you always stuck around.

You always came back.

To play for us, to play for India.

You were always in the background.

You were never captain, but you behave like a leader.

Always taking charge, always advising.

You were the orchestrator, but the band got the glory.

You’ve never looked like you craved for it though.

That blue jersey is all that you cared about.

Serving the team, serving the nation.

Your only fault was that you’ve been glorious, but never glamorous. 

It’s your simplicity that perhaps makes us forget you from time to time.

But that is also your legacy.

The man who kept things simple.

The warrior who never gave up.

You joined under Azhar.

You’ve served countless captains with all your might.

Teammates who joined with you are long gone.

But you are still playing, still fighting.

Words fall short, unlike your deliveries, to describe that magnificent feat.

You were never dropped for poor form.

It was always the injuries.

Ankle, toe, wrist.

It kept you away from Tests.

But it never made you stop dreaming.

That’s what keeps you going, isn’t it?

Dreaming like a kid to play for the country, again and again.

White doesn’t matter, blue suits you just fine.

It can’t be easy keeping up with 25-year-olds.

But you somehow know the trick.

They all look up to you.

And you guide them.

It’s them who get the glory.

But you don’t mind that, do you?

It’s remarkable how you do what you do.

Exceedingly humble, romantically selfless.

Never one to take credit, never one to shun responsibility.

You recently said, “I don’t think fans like me much.”

I hope our support can change some of that.

Thank you for keeping the faith.

Thank you for still being there.

Thank you for bouncing back.

Every. Single. Time.

Thank you for being Ashish Nehra.

Thank you and a happy birthday!