Having played all seasons since the tourney’s inception, Amit Mishra will be one of the most experienced players playing this year’s Indian Premier League. Eleven more wickets will mean the 38-year-old leg-spinner will overtake Lasith Malinga to become the highest wicket-taker in the competition, and after an injury-curtailed season in 2020 – he played only three matches – Mishra is hoping to play a bigger role for Delhi Capitals and to take the side to its first-ever title.
Mishra hasn’t played a single competitive match since last year’s IPL, but he told Sportstar he has trained hard to be prepared for the competition this year. Even though he bowed out with an injury early, the team’s runner-up finish buoyed him, and he says he will continue to play a de-facto player-cum-mentor role for his side.
The leggie hasn’t played international cricket since 2017, and with a number of spinners ahead of him in the pecking order, he is not likely to add to the 22 Tests, 36 One-Day Internationals and 10 T20Is he has played for India. Five of the 36 ODIs he played were in a memorable series against New Zealand in October, 2016; in what may remain the last ODI series of his career. He won the player-of-the-series award for taking 15 wickets, including five in the final contest.
In a short interview, facilitated via email, Mishra talks about spin bowling, Capitals’ performance last season, and more.
If I may ask you, have you played competitive matches or trained since having played the IPL last season?
I have not played any competitive matches since the last IPL, but I have been training hard for this year’s season. It was disappointing to incur an injury in the last season (flexor tendon injury) and be ruled out of the tournament. However, that’s behind me now and I am just looking forward to playing well in this year’s season. I have worked very hard to be fully prepared for this season, so I am just looking to walk on the park with the team now.
Over the years you’ve seen T20 cricket develop, having played in all IPL tournaments. Do you think spin bowling in T20s has now developed into a specialised art form?
I think spin bowling has always been a specialised art form in all formats of cricket. Every spinner has something different to offer and it’s their unique abilities that make them special, like Imran Tahir has a great flipper, Rashid Khan deceives batsmen in the air, and I have my own style of bowling as well. So, everyone has a host of variations and all of us keep trying to improve upon our strengths by speaking to each other about our games.
What are some of the skills needed for a spin bowler to excel in T20s? Given that there is always a lurking threat of being hit for boundaries, how does he switch between attack and defence, and are variations imperative in a bowler’s arsenal?
Well, variations are the most important aspect for any spin bowler. Like I said earlier, every spinner has his own special variation, which he brings out in crunch situations. We have a plan in mind before entering the field, however, we can’t stick to it completely during the match. It’s very important for all bowlers to keep adapting to the match situations and plan deliveries accordingly. It also comes down to instincts as well. When it comes to defending or attacking, it depends on whether the team needs to take wickets or save runs. We switch between attack and defence according to the situation and according to the wicket.
Shreyas Iyer and Amit Mishra in IPL 2019. – FILE PHOTO/R.V. MOORTHY
You didn’t play many games last season but the team’s runner-up finish would have delighted you…
It was quite disappointing to leave the tournament last season. I was bowling well and my fitness was good as well. However, it was really good to see the team reach the final of IPL 2020. Yes, it was disappointing to see the team lose the final, but it was great to see the way the team played in the entire season. I was very happy to watch the team perform brilliantly. Now, we are looking to perform even better than last time, reach the final and win it. We will try our best to cross the line this season.
Will you be continuing to play a player-cum-mentor role for the team?
We have a great mix of senior and junior players in our team and as one of the senior players, it will always be my responsibility to guide the junior players in any way I can. The youngsters have shown a lot of heart in the practice sessions and are working very hard. Everyone is looking good, whether in batting or the bowling department. I have been playing cricket for a long time and therefore I would definitely like to use my experience for the benefit of my team.
R. Ashwin has had a standout red-ball season for India. Can you talk about some of his qualities, and what he brings to the table for the Capitals?
We all know that Ashwin is one of the best spinners India has ever produced. He has got a fantastic record, not only in red-ball cricket, but in T20s as well. He performed well for us in the last season, and I am sure he will have a huge effect on our performances this season as well. Ashwin understands the game very well and uses his variations according to the situation of the game. He is a match-winner, and he likes to challenge the best batsman in the opposition.
Capitals’ fast bowlers made the headlines last season, but what did you make of its spin-bowling performance?
We have a great balance between pace and spin in our bowling line-up. Yes, the fast bowlers led the attack very well, but the spinners supported them well in the middle overs. Especially, Ashwin, who picked up wickets at key moments in various matches which kept us in the game. Axar [Patel] chipped in with a good economy rate through the tournament as well. We have many options in our bowling line-up and all of us are always ready to step up for the team at any given situation.
You have been around in the domestic circuit for many years. Given that much of the attention is on fast bowling these days, do you think India is adequately keeping alive its rich tradition of spin bowling?
Yes, there has been a rise of fast bowlers in India in the last few years, but spin bowling will never lose its place in Indian cricket. A host of quality spinners such as Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal have won matches for India in the last few years. Ravichandran Ashwin and Axar Patel showed the value of spinners in the Test series against England and I am sure that there are many upcoming quality spinners across the country. A bowling attack needs to have a good balance between pace and spin and I think Indian cricket will always give equal importance to both the skill sets.