I have known Amit Mishra for a long time now. But there was something different about him when we met during the Irani Trophy game a few months ago. The conversation as always was about his bowling. Amit, though, didn’t sound as confident as he does usually. There was something worrying him.
He had been in and out of the Indian team for a while now. In fact, he had spent some 25 months on the sidelines before making a return in Zimbabwe. The long interlude had had an effect on him. He didn’t enjoy his captain’s (MS Dhoni) trust and Amit was aware of that. (Also Read: Mishra spins into leading role)
I would often ask him how come he was being so successful in the IPL and yet struggling to get back to the national team. His explanation was always the same. Amit believes intrinsically that he is the champion of his IPL team. That he holds the key every time he has the ball in his hand. The captain’s confidence, he believed, was half the task. (Also Read: Mishra gets his break, belatedly)
And I’m very glad to see that from having lost the faith of his captain for so long, the whole world is now talking about Amit. Most importantly, he has Dhoni on his side again. While he has always possessed all the skills necessary to be a wicket-taking leg-spinner, I think his understanding of batsmen’s psychology has been enhanced drastically of late. (Photos: 2/2 for Mishra, India)
It is very important for any spinner to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of every batsman he’s bowling to. He’s like a doctor trying to diagnose a patient’s condition. For example, did you see the pace at which he bowled the deliveries that outwitted both Marlon Samuels and Dwayne Bravo? There was a stark contrast. The one he got Samuels with was tossed up and was very slow in the air. It beat the right-hander in flight. The next one to Bravo was slightly quicker and flatter too. Not to forget that it was a googly.
The general problem with most batsmen around the world these days is that they are no longer used to facing spinners who give a lot of air to the ball. They spend hours in the nets batting against spinners bowling at them at speeds of around 85-87 kmph. Amit bowls much slower and is in the range of 75-77 kmph. They are not used to such slow speeds, and fall prey like the two West Indians did. Even with his leg-breaks, it is very important to keep changing the trajectory. (Full Coverage: ICC World T20)
When a batsman is not sure of what’s coming his way from a spinner, he tries to play it off the wicket and is therefore slightly delays his stroke. That was the case with Bravo as he came forward to the googly and got hit on the pads.
Amit has many variations, be it the conventional leg-break, the googly or the flipper. He’s constantly asking questions of the batsmen. The way he uses the crease is exemplary too, and Amit’s biggest strength is that he’s ready and skilled enough to keep changing tactics on his feet. He doesn’t have to depend on predetermined strategies.
Like his first plan against someone like Chris Gayle would be to start with a googly always. And one that is given a lot of air. Why? Because Gayle, he knows, will attempt to smash him over the on-side boundary. But that doesn’t mean he will not try other variations against him.
The reason someone like Virat Kohli is so confident while playing spin is that he reads the bowler very quickly. He might not be a 100 per cent right always but most of the time he’s on the money, and hence the runs just keep flowing. It’s similar with a spinner. He’s always trying to second-guess what the batsman’s up to.
I think where Amit has been unlucky is playing under a captain who plays leg-spin really well. So it’s taken a while for him to win Dhoni’s trust. And every leg-spinner requires his captain’s confidence.
When I now think of Amit at that Irani Trophy game, I can recall how he was on the edge, wondering where his next game will come from. It’s really great to see him back at his best.
BY: Narendra Hirwani
(Leg-spinner Hirwani played 17 Tests and 18 ODIs for India and was later a national selector. He spoke to Devendra Pandey)