Mishra can pose questions to Aussies

The atmosphere at the Feroz Shah Kotla was simply electrifying. More than 40,000 fans – including many new converts to the game of cricket – were drawn to the edges of their seats. They did not seem to notice the high level of humidity that night as heady entertainment was on offer, batsmen celebrating the flat track in the IPL contest.
Shahid Afridi and Herschelle Gibbs were going ballistic and Deccan Chargers was finally looking like the team everyone had expected it to be. Chasing 195 to win, the team from Hyderabad had knocked off 71 runs in six overs when Delhi Daredevils captain Virender Sehwag threw the ball to Amit Mishra.
Afridi backed off, making room, in an attempt to send the leg-spinner’s first delivery over the bowler’s head. The ball kept following the Pakistani dasher who only managed to slice the ball over point for AB de Villiers to take a catch. And in the next over, Gibbs charged down the track only to be foxed by a googly that slipped in and hit middle-stump.
Mishra came back in a tense finish to claim a hat-trick in the final over to secure a 12-run victory for his team and get its campaign to make the semifinals back on track. More than that, he stormed into the collective consciousness of the nation’s cricket crazy fans as an old-fashioned leg-spinner who was not afraid to flight the ball, even in the shortest format of the game.
Cut to a time six years ago, when he was chosen as the third spinner behind Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh in the Indian squad for the first two Tests against the West Indies. He did not get a look in and quickly went back to the wilderness of domestic cricket. He bobbed up one more time when he was chosen to play a one-day series in Bangladesh, only to be consigned to be a journeyman in first class cricket again.
He was languishing in the Plate Division of Ranji Trophy, playing for Haryana and surfacing in the Duleep Trophy in three seasons, and nobody seemed to have any time for him or his craft. He would have ended up as one of Indian cricket’s forgotten men but for the maverick that we so love to hate – IPL.
He made the most of the time with Delhi Daredevils’ premier spinner Daniel Vettori. The New Zealand captain is acknowledged as the finest modern spin bowling brain, and did not hesitate in sharing some of his wisdom with the leg-spinner but Mishra had to endure a seven-match wait before he could get to play his first game.
He brought in his immense variety into play in the T20 format, showcasing his confidence. Off a short run up, he bowled the leg-break, the googly and the top-spinner with amazing control – even being able to drop the ball short or wide when he saw the batsman make a pre-meditated charge down the track.
Former India wicket-keeper Vijay Dahiya, who is now Delhi’s coach, has been one of Mishra’s staunchest advocates. “Nobody comes close to him on the domestic scene. He works on his craft and has a keen cricket brain. He has been unlucky not to have been given more opportunities,” he said – long before the new set of selectors chose him in the Test squad.
At 25, Mishra is such a good practitioner of his art but needs to carry that confidence into the Indian dressing room to gain acceptance of everyone there. And he has no reason not to be assured of himself. As someone who has lived in Delhi all his life but played nearly all his cricket for Haryana, he has a humble earthiness to his persona.
It can be believed that selectors Yashpal Sharma and Narendra Hirwani have played key roles in picking Mishra ahead of contenders like Pragyan Ojya, Piyush Chawla and Murali Kartik. Yashpal Sharma has worked with Mishra when he was India A coach some years ago while Hirwani would see a bit of himself in the younger spinner.
And if – as some of us are hoping – the M Chinnaswamy Stadium track rolls out to be turner, Mishra can wreak havoc in the Australian ranks. We may then have more reason to celebrate the third coming of Amit Mishra into the Indian dressing room.

1 comment for “Mishra can pose questions to Aussies

  1. Homer
    October 3, 2008 at 1:41 am

    They cant fit him in the squad – not yet.. But it will be great to see him rub shoulders with Kumble and learn from the great man!


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