Despite being the hero of the last series—15 wickets from five One Day Internationals (ODIs) against New Zealand—leg-spinner Amit Mishra is still not a certainty in the playing eleven of the five-match Test series against England. He is playing the first Test at Rajkot that started on Wednesday.
That is the story of his career. He has always been a nearly-man of Indian cricket, never certain of his place, never consistently included. Mishra spoke about his best ODI series at his west Patel Nagar residence in the Capital, earlier this week. Edited excerpts from an interview:
Was getting the man of the series prize against New Zealand your greatest moment?
Not the greatest moment, but certainly the most rewarding and satisfying one. I always consider my Test debut (in Mohali in 2008, against Australia) as the highest point of my career. But, yes, few moments are better than the Vizag ODI—I not only got a five-wicket haul but also helped my team win a decisive match.
Did you do anything differently in that series?
I worked on my variations. Anil Kumble (the coach) told me that I am not lacking anything in technique or variations and just need to be more consistent. Being consistent means landing the ball at the same place often. More importantly, Anil bhai, along with MSD (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) and Virat (Kohli), gave me space, which helped me enormously. Their positivity has rubbed off on me.
Were you under pressure because there was no R. Ashwin or Ravindra Jadeja in this series?
I got a lot of calls and messages from friends saying I was the senior-most and the main bowler. I tried to help the junior players as much as I could, especially Jayant Yadav, who plays for my state team Haryana.
Do you look back at your career and think about the missed opportunities?
No, I don’t look back at whatever has happened. I have stopped thinking about what could have been...
But don’t you get tired of having to prove your worth all the time? Doesn’t this make you bitter?
(Smiles) Challenges will always make you a better individual. I have been trying to improve my batting and fielding to compete with a 21-year-old. I get a lot of positivity from a youngster. My thinking is that I shouldn’t regret my time in cricket whenever I retire from the game.
India start as favourites against England. What’s your opinion of this five-match Test series?
It’s a big series since we hardly play such a long one against one opponent. We are not under pressure but yes, positive pressure will motivate us to win this series.
England’s batting lacks firepower since there is no one other than captain Alastair Cook and Joe Root who looks capable of challenging the Indian spinners.
I don’t think so. England are a good team and they have been doing well. Cook and Root are important wickets but they have got some fine all-rounders (like Ben Stokes).
Will the absence of quality spinners like Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar hurt England?
No doubt, it is going to help India. However, cricket matches are not won by spinners alone and England have some quality bowlers.
Is this a revenge series since England defeated India in 2012?
I wasn’t part of that team which lost but certainly, we all want to win this series. We don’t enter the field by thinking badla (revenge), but it is always nice to win against a good opponent. It may seem like we have a stronger team and home advantage but we shouldn’t forget that England won the 2012 series despite being 0-1 down.
Ashwin is in the form of his life, Jadeja has made a great comeback and you are another spinner in this team. Can England survive such a lethal spin attack on turning tracks?
Why are you forgetting our fast bowlers? They are as good as any of the spinners. The best thing about this Indian attack is that our fast bowlers are equally capable of getting a five-wicket haul either with the new ball or the old ball. This is something a lot of people tend to ignore.
Moeen Ali had a great series against India in England in 2014. Will he be a big threat for the hosts if the pitches are helpful?
One thing is sure that Ali won’t be able to repeat his performance. No one had faced him before and he surprised us all with his bowling. But no one plays spin better than Indian batsmen and it will be a massive challenge for Ali to repeat the act of 2014.
If you were to compare the spin attacks of both teams...
It will be an unfair comparison since England are lacking experienced spinners while we have three.
Do you have any number in mind before you finish your career?
Why are you asking this question now (laughs)? I want to play 500 Test matches! To be honest, I stopped thinking about numbers a long time back. Initially, I had a certain number to achieve but that’s gone. Jo khatam ho gaya us pe dhyan nahi deta (I don’t think about what’s over).
Vimal Kumar is the author of Sachin: Cricketer Of The Century and The Cricket Fanatic’s Essential Guide.