Amit Mishra has seldom enjoyed the confidence of skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni. But he has never taken the apparent snub to heart. In fact, the leg-spinner has always let his bowling do the talking.
A 'passenger' on most tours, Mishra recently got an opportunity to display his skills under Virat Kohli in the Asia Cup. He impressed one and all with his bag of tricks. His 2/28 in that high-pressure game against Pakistan was noteworthy. If not for that blitz from Shahid Afridi, India would have won the contest and booked a place in the final.
Mishra, who hails from Delhi but represents Haryana in first-class cricket, should be an automatic choice in the Indian XI for the upcoming World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. That R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are also part of the squad shouldn't go against Mishra. His ability to bowl wicket-taking deliveries hold him in good stead.
A cursory look at the numbers also tells us that the leggie has an edge over the Chennai Super Kings duo of Ashwin and Jadeja, both of whom enjoy Dhoni's confidence. Mishra is the second-highest wicket-taker in IPL history. With 95 wickets in 76 games, Mishra is second only to Lasith Malinga (103). The leg-spinner picks up a wicket every seven deliveries in the Twenty20 extravaganza. He has represented three teams — Delhi Daredevils, Deccan Chargers and Sunrisers Hyderabad — and has taken a hat-trick for each of them.
Conversely, Ashwin has only 64 wickets from 67 matches. Jadeja's record is mediocre to say the least: in 78 matches, the left-arm spinner has taken merely 39 wickets.
Such has been the impact of Mishra in Twenty20 cricket that the Sunrisers even used their 'right to match' card to retain him for Rs 4.75 crore in the recent IPL auction. The Daredevils were also trying to buy him
For Dhoni, who will be looking to win his second World Twenty20 title, Mishra will be the right man to go. After all, he is a wicket-taker; Ashwin and Jadeja generally look to stem the flow of runs. They wait for the batsman to make mistakes, Mishra, on the other hand, forces the batsman to err. On those super-slow wickets in Bangladesh, Mishra would be more than a handful with his attacking line. For someone who bowls slower through the air, his deliveries would force the batsman to generate power. A multidimensional bowler, Mishra is well-versed with the art of containing, too, We saw that in the Asia Cup.
Former India leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani, who mentors Mishra, opined that his ward should be Dhoni's go-to man in the World Twenty20. "He has shown his abilities in the Asia Cup. He is a wicket-taker and does his job perfectly. The captain may not be a huge fan of his, but Mishra makes full use of whatever opportunity he gets," said Hirwani, who was part of the previous national selection committee.
Hirwani went on, "Dhoni needs to have faith in Mishra. He has to give him the confidence he gives to the other bowlers. Just because Dhoni can play leg-spin well, it doesn't mean that every batsman in world cricket can. Mishra deserves a longer run," he added.
So how handy will be Mishra in Bangladesh? "The wickets will obviously be on the slower side. The batsman will find it tough to score freely. And as a result, they will try to force the issue by hitting the ball hard. That's when you end up mistiming the ball. Mishra will be deadly on such wickets. I have told him to bowl slower through the air. His pace should be below the 80-kph mark as not many batsman practice against such slow deliveries. And don't forget, he has many a trick up his sleeve. He bowls a brilliant googly. Mishra should be India's No. 1 bowler in the World Twenty20," Hirwani said.