To me, international cricketers fall into three kinds: players make their presence felt by their innate abilities and flair; players who make their presence felt with their all-round abilities and sheer utility to the team and players who can be relied upon to do a job, no matter what the situation is. Despite the value they add to their teams, the third type of cricketers are not remembered and appreciated enough.
The likes of Peter Siddle, Younis Khan, Ajinkya Rahane, Moeen Ali, and Hashim Amla come to mind when we talk about cricketers who go about their jobs quietly, away from the spotlight. I am sure Team India and Haryana leg-spinner Amit Mishra falls into the aforementioned type of cricketers. Amit Mishra is also one of the underrated cricketers.
Read on… to know how his consistent performances are reminding everyone that he is not to be left behind Team India’s current leading spinners, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja.
Underrated Amit Mishra Holding His Own
Most times, the role of a first or a second-change bowler is just as important if not more than the opening bowlers or the spearhead of the attack. Now, why do I say that? Cricket is a team sport and not always will individuals win games on their own for their team. Secondly, for a bowling attack to keep the pressure on the batting side and pose a wicket-taking threat, it is not enough to have just one bowler bowling well from one end, but not finding the support from the other. It also becomes tough for the captain to control the game, an aspect that is so crucial to winning games.
In the ongoing Test series against South Africa, even more so than in India’s historic triumph in Srilanka this past September, Mishra has played the role of a second-change bowler simply brilliantly. Simply put, he has made his “presence felt”, reminding everyone that he is not to be left in the shadows of Ashwin and Jadeja, who are India’s leading wicket-takers in the series so far and the home side’s leading spinners as well.
In Srilanka, as Ashwin’s bowling partner, the Haryana leggie bowled beautifully, exuding great control over his stock delivery and earning the respect and trust of his captain, Virat Kohli. Mishra picked 15 wickets in the three Tests against Angelo Mathews’ side, dovetailing well with the Tamil Nadu off-spinner, who, again, was unplayable. He bowled a lot more overs there compared to what he has done in the two Tests he has played against the Proteas. And that is why I would say his contribution and indispensable wickets in this series, as the third spinner in the side, have been deserving of recognition.
In Mohali, he picked just three wickets but bowled two incisive deliveries that AB ‘devastating’ de Villiers simply had no answers to. Mind you, in the visitors’ first innings, de Villiers was holding their innings together and had resisted the threat of the Indian spinners quite well, until then. But Mishra came up with an absolute peach. He got his stock delivery to turn sharply after pitching on middle stump. The South African right-hander played inside the line of the delivery that crashed into his off stump. It was a bowler’s wicket all the way. Even in the second innings, Mishra was the one who dismissed de Villiers in the same fashion – bowled – as in the first innings. This was a good delivery as well, but probably not of the calibre of the one in the first innings.
Having made a telling contribution in Mohali, Mishra was unlucky to be left out of India’s playing XI in Bengaluru. However, it is fair to say that Stuart Binny’s inclusion was a result of the team management expecting the pitch to assist swing and seam. Nonetheless, it was harsh on Mishra.
With another dry, turning pitch on offer in the third Test in Nagpur, Amit Mishra once again got his chance. He made it count, and more importantly, played an indispensable role in India going on to wrap things up in the third session on day three. Dismissing Amla and Faf du Plessis in quick succession bulldozed South Africa’s chances of chasing down 310, which would have only been the second time a 300+ total got chased down in the fourth innings of a Test match in India.
The timing of his twin strikes in Nagpur could not have been better. Amla and du Plessis were embroiled in a good partnership and had blunted the venom carried by Ashwin and Jadeja. And therein lies the kind of impact Mishra, as the third spinner in the side, has had in the Freedom Series so far. Mind you, he has also not bowled as many overs as Ashwin and Jadeja, who have featured in all three Tests too.
Not only would Amit Mishra be glad to be bowling well and picking crucial wickets and thus contributing to the team’s cause significantly, but also continue to have the faith of Kohli, who had words of recognition for the 33-year-old after India won the Nagpur Test. There will be a few Tests, even when India play at home, which Mishra sits out of in the best interests of the team. But in the two Tests he has played against the Proteas, Mishra has proved to himself and the team management that he can make a difference as the third spinner in the side. That bodes well for India and the individual himself, going forward.