Until his first-class debut two years back, Mihir Hirwani had often heard the disparaging comment: “Hiru bhai jaisey baat nahi hai,” When your father was a legspinner who jolted a power-packed West Indies on debut, and mentors the new generation of spinners as the bowling coach at National Cricket Academy, it was never going to be easy being his son. This season, though, Mihir has begun to shut up the critics: two five-fors in successive Ranji games for Madhya Pradesh have helped. “Until my Ranji debut, those comparisons with my father used to affect me. Joh aaye bole, unke jaise bano, bowl like him. It was bit frustrating at times. I got irritated. Many a times I told myself, am giving my best, what can I do to make people think that I am like him or even better than him?”
Then one day, he decided he had enough, and realised he had to discard the mental baggage. “One day I told myself enough, I can’t change others. If I keep performing then these talks will end,” Mihir says. “Since the time I started to play cricket, wherever I have gone people have told me about my father, “Unka alag he baat thi. I always tell people he was different and Iam different. His style of bowling was different from mine.”
Like a host of young spinners in the country, Mihir too turns to his father for technical help with his bowling. Every evening, during match, he would call up his father for a chat. He would mail his bowling videos, and seek father’s guidance.
At 5’9”, Mihir is much taller than his father, and at 23, with a classical side-on action, he feels he can make it big if he works as hard as his father did. Burden of comparisons aside, Mihir knows he is lucky to get such an experienced coach as his father. The flip side is that he can’t give any excuses that pitch was batsmen friendly, or fielders dropped catches. “Sometimes, he gets angry but it’s just for short span of time. He will say, why didn’t you get a wicket, how can you say the pitch wasn’t good? But the anger doesn’t last long. The best part is that after 10 minutes, he will come and discuss stuff: Technical, mental, video sessions. I feel lucky, people go outside for guidance and I get it at home.”
Narendra Hirwani isn’t the type who makes him relive videos from his own career. “He has hardly ever shown me all that. If I want to see his game against West Indies, I hit Youtube,” Mihir says.
The father’s bowling recipe is pretty simple: Try to read batsman but at the same time, be street smart. That’s the one reason from Ravindra Jadeja to Amit Mishra, all have approached him at the NCA for advice. Before getting his first-five wicket haul of the season, Mihir had got just two wickets against Mumbai. In one of those evening chats, he recalls telling his father that that though it was just couple of wickets, he felt that he was bowling his best.
“I called him and said, Papa mein bahut achi bowling kar raha hoon. And he told me for any spinner what is important to get that feel-good feeling. Everything is working right. It’s like riding a bicycle.
When everything is in motion then only cycle will move ahead. Even if you don’t get wickets it’s fine but getting wickets with bad bowling, there is no fun. Usmey kuch mazaa hi nahi hain,” Mihir says. Mihir is set to play against Tamil Nadu on Friday, and knows that he can’t rest on his laurels or give any pitch-excuse. “You can’t ever tell him about pitches. He always says, “aapke paas kala hona chahiye, ki pitch sey kaise tael nikale!” (You need the art to extract oil from the pitch – wickets that is).”