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No number 11 on dining table

"I like to have yellow dal and bhindi at home and whatever Senso offers."

Photo: S. Arneja.

Ashish Nehra tries out the varied fare on offer at Senso Ristorante in South Delhi. Photo: S. Arneja.

LIKE YOU one also wanted to have an insight into the food habits of the eleven whose performance fails to satiate the billion's craving for more and fortunately finds an insider to reveal it all. Ashish Nehra for once bowls a straight one and gives a peep into the dressing room. Choosing Senso Ristorante and Bar in South Delhi as his pitch, Ashish marks his run-up to feast with a cold drink and discovers his line and length in the unpretentious all-white environs of Senso. "Beyond home, this is the only place where I love to munch," says Ashish in simple English, adding, "Coming to the curiosity regarding the tastes of teammates, let me tell you that the person who was the utmost fan of food is no more in the team - that was Ajay Jadeja. I can't forget him for his love for different cuisines, repartee and of course he was the man who happened to be my first victim in the first class cricket." Then who has filled in his shoes? "Sachin. His hunger for runs finds a match in his appetite for dishes especially when it is seafood." And what delights dada? Is he open to experiment on table as well? "No, he sticks to machli and curd rice." Does milk really move Veeru? Nehra confirms that the man is an advertisement of milk in flesh and blood. "I feel he is in love with doodh." Ask him to point out a colleague who doesn't glance at the menu and Nehra comes up with Kaif without batting an eye-lid. "Jo mil jaayega wohi kha lega." And somebody, who showcases style on the round pitch. "Laxman", once again second is eternity to measure Ashish's timing. "He expresses his silky touch for the Italian cuisine as well."

Italian! Senso also happens to specialise in Italian delicacies with Chef Leandro Carrega offering Rome on platter in Basant Lok.

What about his own choices? "I like to have yellow dal and bhindi at home and whatever Senso offers." So in comes Riso e Polo, Ashish gives this spice-sautéed chicken with herb rice a look and the spoon swing gets going from the first delivery itself.

Chat turns to business and Ashish maintains that he is recuperating fast from the foot surgery and is ready to take on the hip-hop Kiwis and the dashing Kangaroos. "I was advised to give the Challenger series and the Irani Trophy a miss as I am still going through the rehabilitation process." Ashish gives full credit for his improved fitness to former trainer Adrian Le Roux. "His exercise regimen contributed in improving my speed by 4-5 kms per hour. I wish such trainers with all the Ranji teams, at least major ones."


Had Adrian prohibited some foodstuff in the diet plan? "Yes, all the oil and fat material is a strict no in our cuisine. In the beginning it did feel a bit odd but now everybody is realising the importance of it," observes Ashish, meanwhile switching territories to taste Gustosa, a mouth watering combination of eggplant, asparagus and celery pie seasoned with black olive, pine nut and fresh basil dressing served with fresh garden salad.

Back to the challenges ahead, Ashish feels that for the New Zealand series pacers would not have much to do, still the series will set the pace for the Australian tour and it is imperative to perform well to maintain the confidence level. Does he find any difference between Indian quickies and the Australian speedsters? "Talentwise we are at par. It is their supreme fitness that gives them the edge but now we are improving on this count. Even on the fitness count you can't give them a perfect ten because they do have the likes of Gillespie who break down every two or three test matches. Point is they have a strong bench so every time a Gillespie gets injured a Bichel is there. It is where we were lacking till a couple of years back but now we have made considerable progress with bowlers like Salvi and Pathan waiting in the wings."

Trainer's strict diet plan prevents Ashish from trying out Senso's dessert, Semi Freddo, an assortment of homemade parfait served with almond crunch in full but he is sport to face the sledging onslaught Down Under with full throttle. "I am not overtly aggressive as it hampers your game but I do see the batsmen in the eye if he is frequently missing the ball. Actually the young in the team have a different attitude. You can't dare say anything to Harbhajan or Yuvraj." So attitude Srinath is passé. "No, it has its own importance. Players like Srinath and Walsh are a class apart."

With an almost settled slot with Zaheer is he searching for a perfect foil to start a home team? "Right now my eyes are closed for everything except the three sticks."

ANUJ KUMAR

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