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Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja might have been India’s most successful bowlers in the ongoing Test series against South Africa, but it’s leg-spinner Amit Mishra who has won the trust of skipper Virat Kohli with strikes at crucial junctures.
From being just another spin option under previous captain MS Dhoni, Mishra has turned into Kohli’s secret weapon against one of the most dangerous batting line-ups in the world. And the most experienced spinner in this Indian team, in terms of first-class experience, is certainly enjoying his new role.
“During the stand between (Hashim) Amla and (Faf) du Plessis in the (second innings of) Nagpur Test, Virat came to me and asked ‘what we should do?’ I said let me bowl as I feel like I can get a wicket here. He said ‘okay’. I was confident. I knew we needed to get a wicket there and I felt I could use my variety. I got them out,” Mishra said here on Tuesday.
Mishra has delivered whenever Kohli has thrown the ball towards him, and this has shown in his new approach of bowling leg-breaks that turn less. He is now more focussed on control and change of pace.
The Haryana leggie is certainly not complaining about not getting as many overs as Ashwin or Jadeja. What the 33-year-old cherishes is that “he has been able to break partnerships as and when summoned by his skipper”.
Out of the 47 South African wickets taken by Indian spinners in the series so far, Mishra has just seven to his name. But he has dismissed AB de Villiers twice in Mohali, JP Duminy in Nagpur and also broke the Proteas’ longest partnership of the series in the second innings in Nagpur, removing both Amla and du Plessis.
“It is more important to take wickets when it matters. When you take important wickets and your team wins, it gives you more satisfaction rather than bowling 15-20 overs without a wicket. If in short spells you bowl well, say six to seven overs and take one or two wickets, it helps the team a lot,” Mishra said.
In the third Test, Mishra removed Amla with a leg-break that induced the edge of his defensive bat, while du Plessis played over an attempted pull.
“The delivery with which I got Amla out is my second best after the one with which I got AB de Villiers out in the second innings of the Mohali Test. That was more crucial as they had wickets in hand and the target was not too big,” he said.
Mishra completely flummoxed de Villiers with his leg-break, which turned just enough to beat his bat’s outside edge and hit the edge of the off-stump.
The 33-year-old, however, said despite the heroics of the Indian spinners in the series, not enough credit was given to them as the nature of pitches overshadowed their efforts.
“We have not been given due credit with so much talk about the pitch. Our achievements should have been highlighted more and talked about. Our home conditions have been like this for the last 15 years and it is not from today.
“When we went to Sri Lanka, we got turning tracks there and bowled well. I thought if the spinners are bowling well, then at least praise them for doing well. It is not that spinners got wickets only because of these pitches. We also have done well outside the country,” he said.
He added that the South Africans failed to adapt to the Indian conditions.
“It is all about adaptability. They need to do their homework and improve their batting technique on pitches that offer turn. I believe they are under a lot of pressure because we have not given them boundary balls,” he said.
Mishra believed the reason for the spin trio’s success was the trust and bonding he shared with Ashwin and Jadeja.
“For a winning recipe, it is very important to understand each other’s games and trust each other,” he said.
MISHRA THIS SERIES
First innings: 2/35 in 12 overs (AB de Villiers, S Harmer)
Second innings: 1/26 in 8 overs (AB de Villiers)
First innings: 1/9 in 3 overs (JP Duminy)
Second innings: 3/51 in 20 overs (Imran Tahir, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis)