Mishra: In pursuit of consistency

In the start-stop-start Test career of Amit Mishra, a secure place in the side has been a rarity. There were times when he was treated harshly by selectors; on other occasions Mishra had only himself to blame.

Amit Mishra largely struggled at Chepauk as he appeared to fight the demons in his mind caused by self doubts.   -  ap

Spin bowling is a lot about confidence, more so leg-spin. It’s a delicate ‘high risk’ craft.

In the start-stop-start Test career of Amit Mishra, a secure place in the side has been a rarity. There were times when he was treated harshly by selectors; on other occasions Mishra had only himself to blame.

Playing here only because promising off-spinning all-rounder Jayant Yadav was rested for the game, >Mishra largely struggled at Chepauk as he appeared to fight the demons in his mind caused by self doubts.

Dismissing last man Jake Ball with a googly was little consolation for Mishra who could never really settle into the sort of rhythm that enables a leg-spinner to bring his repertoire into play.

The 34-year-old Mishra figured in the first Test at Rajkot, and by his own admission, was not at his best. Then, the team-management took the calculated gamble of opting for Jayant, an off-spinner in the classical mould, who is also a solid batsman.

Many were sceptical about a ‘sameness in the attack’ but the move paid off since Jayant’s methods as an off-spinner were different from those of R. Ashwin.

It was only last year that Mishra worked with former India leg-spinner Laxman Sivaramakrishnan in Chennai. The two dwelt on bringing alterations in pace and trajectory and pitching the ball up to the batsman and inviting him to drive.

Much focus was on the transfer of weight from back leg to front leg and into the delivery stride. The idea was to bring the whole body, not just the bowling arm, into play thereby enhancing the follow through as well.

Mishra gets his leg-breaks to turn and has developed a handy wrong ‘un. The top-spinner has fetched him wickets as well, but he tends to pitch short while attempting flippers.

One criticism against Mishra – he had 74 wickets in 21 matches at 35.10 ahead of the ongoing Test – is that he lacks the natural fizz of a leg-spinner and is not quick enough off the surface.

The turn and bounce normally associated with quality leg-spinners are, on occasions, missing in his bowling. Not imparting sufficient revolutions on the ball and lacking the ‘hip drive’, so vital for leg-spinners, can be among the reasons.

It is intriguing Mishra’s only five-wicket haul in a Test innings came on his debut, against Australia at Mohali in 2008. A leg-spinner is essentially an attacking option but Mishra has largely donned a supporting role.

Some have argued that Mishra is a more potent bowler in Twenty20 cricket where batsmen take more risks.

A leg-spinner is an exciting bowler; he is not dependent on the pitch to turn the ball and employs his wrists to rip the sphere.

Mishra had inherent advantages over the other spinners at the sluggish Chepauk track, but seemed to be only clutching at the straws. Does he enjoy the confidence of the skipper?