Mihir Hirwani: "The surname, Hirwani, will be there with me all my life"

In a freewheeling chat with Sportstar, leg-spinner Mihir Hirwani talks about living up to his father's legacy, wearing India colours and the IPL among other things.

Before the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy begins, Mihir Hirwani would be a part of the Mumbai Indians’ trials for the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League.   -  SHAYAN ACHARYA

By now, Mihir Hirwani is used to criticisms. He clearly remembers how people would raise doubts over his ability when he made his first-class debut two seasons back. Not much has changed over the years though. Even now, when the 23-year-old spinner takes the field, he comes across comments like, “Baap jaisa talent kahan...".

Having spent two-three years in the circuit, Mihir knows that such criticisms would never stop, neither would the comparisons with his father, Narendra Hirwani. Being the son of one of India’s best spinners, Mihir has now learnt to deal with it.

“The surname, Hirwani, will be there with me all my life, and if I think too much about it, the pressure will only mount up,” he tells Sportstar on Saturday, a few minutes after finishing an hour-long session with his father Narendra at the Madhya Pradesh Cricket Association nets.

Don't want to take pressure

As he speaks, his father—now a spin coach at the National Cricket Academy—smiles and quickly heads towards the adjacent Holkar Stadium to watch the Ranji Trophy final between Delhi and Vidarbha.

As his father heads back, Mihir starts explaining. “If I think too much about comparisons with dad, I will play under pressure all my life, and that’s something I don’t want,” he says, admitting that there was pressure when he debuted in 2015. “People raised doubts over my selection, but after some time, I have cut off from all such talks. Yes, it is a privilege that my father is Narendra Hirwani and he is always there to guide me.

"But if I have to play good cricket, I will have to enjoy the game and not take any pressure.”

Mihir has silenced his critics, picking up 31 wickets for Madhya Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy this season. And that has certainly boosted the leg-spinner’s morale.

Along the way, the topic changes to the forthcoming Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, which begins from January 8. “I am quite confident of doing well in the T20s and in the limited overs tournament. I have had a good outing in the Ranji Trophy too. Of course, formats are different and you need to gel accordingly. I have to change a few things while bowling,” he says.

He would join the Madhya Pradesh team in Pune on Sunday, and the leggie has pciked his father's brain to shift focus to the shortest format. “In the longer format, I normally keep it slow through the air and try to deceive the batsman by taking wickets. In T20, the mindset has to be completely different. In T20, you have to take wickets and at the same time concede. I am excited,” he says with a smile.

'IPL helps you get noticed'

Mihir, however, is excited about one more reason. Before the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy begins, he would visit Mumbai from January 2-4 to be a part of the Mumbai Indians’ trials for the upcoming season of the Indian Premier League.

He had appeared for the first trial last week, from which a selected few have been asked to appear for the final trials. “I was there in the IPL auctions in 2015 after doing decently in the Ranji Trophy and at the U-23 level, but too many matches were lined up and I could not be a part of the trials then. I went unsold in the auctions because nobody knew about me,” he rues.

But then, how important is the IPL for him?

Mihir smiles and quickly answers, “In today’s time, a platform like the IPL helps you get noticed. It helps you handle pressure. The aim is to play for India but to achieve that goal, this is a platform and I would like to explore that.”

'Cricket runs in my blood'

While his father makes it clear that he never forced Mihir to take up cricket, the 25-year-old says that cricket has come naturally to him. “My father never asked me to play cricket and it just happened. I think it (cricket) runs in my blood. Leg-spinners normally have similar action. If you look at anyone, there’s no difference in action. If you are an orthodox leggie, the action is mostly same for all. I have never copied dad’s style,” the youngster says.

While he dials up Narendra—who spends most of the time in Bengaluru these days—to take advice, Mihir feels that ever since his father left for the NCA, it has helped him take his cricketing decision by himself. “When dad went to NCA, I was left by myself. I used my mind to understand my bowling. Earlier, in case of any technical errors, I would walk up to my dad. But in these years, I have learnt to manage on my own. Those things helped me a lot,” he says.

Not setting deadline for India call-up

Like his father, Mihir too wants to make it to the Indian team, but he is not willing to set any deadline. “My aim is to play for India but I don't want to take any pressure. I have not set any time limit.

"That makes you feel under pressure and affects your natural game. If you set a time-frame, you can’t enjoy the game. Back of the mind, the challenge will be there, but I would never show it.”

In the domestic season, Mihir has also chipped in with the bat for Madhya Pradesh, but then, he does not wish to let that affect his bowling. “You need to devote more time to learn the art of leg-spin. There is a lot of variety—top-spin, leg-spin, googly, flipper—so it takes a lot of time. I am decent at batting and would love to improve it slowly, but not at the cost of my bowling. I will give more time to bowling,” he says.

At a time, when all-rounders are in vogue, Mihir is happy to be different. Perhaps, that’s what the Hirwani surname has taught him.