Abu Dhabi: After being left out in the cold for an extended spell, India leg-spinner Amit Mishra was finally handed a lifeline by stand-in skipper Virat Kohli during the recently concluded Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
Though India disappointed in that tour, Mishra impressed with the ball in the two matches he figured in and is now very much in the thick of things for Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s men at the ongoing World Twenty20.
Prior to Sunday’s match against Australia, Mishra had played a pivotal role in the first three matches against Pakistan, West Indies and hosts Bangladesh, claiming seven wickets and winning two man-of-the-match awards.
India’s legendary former spinner Erapalli Prasanna, under whom Mishra honed his skills at the National Cricket Association (NCA), was impressed with his showing, but expressed his disappointment that the leg-spinner had been left on the bench for so long.
“Mishra was training under me during my NCA days,” said Prasanna, who was in Abu Dhabi for a community cricket tournament organised by the Ministry of Interior and UAE Exchange. “I’m feeling very proud of him but all along I have been wondering why he was not getting any chances.”
Prasanna has every reason to be upset as Mishra has been repeatedly ignored over the years. Despite making his debut in ODIs in 2003, the 31-year-old has figured in only 23 matches in the limited-overs game and 13 Tests for India.
His T20 outing against Pakistan at the World T20 was his first in four years. He made his T20 debut against Zimbabwe at Harare in 2010.
“As a wrist spinner, he has a better chance of being among the wickets in the T20 version, where the batsmen are always going after the bowlers,” said Prasanna. “I think he was the best bet Dhoni had and I’m sure he will continue to do well.
“What caught my eye when he came to me was the turn he was getting despite not being a tall man. I always emphasise bowling length and for me length is mandatory for a leg-spinner and line is optional.
“The reason why Mishra has been successful at the World T20 is because his length-ball percentage is now more than 80 and short-ball percentage was just 20. While previously it was the other way round or maybe 50-50. If he holds on to the length, he will continue his impressive run. A little bit of turn will make him more lethal.”
Spinners’ approach is also different while playing in the shorter format and that’s also one of the reasons why most struggle to get wickets, Prasanna said.
“Most spinners don’t want to get wickets with deception,” Prasanna said. “Most of them are attempting to take leg-before wickets. In our days, leg before-wickets were not given when the batsman was on their front foot, and so we had to create a scenario or deceive the batsman in the air or off the wicket to force him back for a leg-before wicket. The thinking part has been eliminated. All [spinners] are trying to bowl for leg-before.”
Another Prasanna prodigy who is waiting in the wings and seeking another opportunity to shine is slow left-arm orthodox bowler Pragyan Ojha.
“What has happened is Ravindra Jadeja has succeeded as a spinner and out of the blue he has become an all-rounder,” Prasanna said. “Jadeja is not an exceptional left-arm spinner, but yes he is doing the job well.
“Ojha can only make the team in the absence of either [Ravichandran] Ashwin or Jadeja. Ashwin is also not bowling that extraordinary because he is conceding runs from both sides of the wicket. To waste Ojha on the sidelines for long is not right. Once you are around the age of 28-30 and you are not picked, then you are bound to lose that edge. Ojha should at least be considered for the Tests.”
Prasanna also backed off-spinner Harbhajan Singh to make a comeback.
“I don’t think it is all over for Harbhajan,” he said. “He is clearly lacking in length. One or two length balls in an over was not going to help him. He still has a chance but he cannot get too anxious to get into the team.”