The wily old art of leg spin, right since the days of Grimmett and Benaud, has been a crafty attack on a cricket bat's might. In these times of broad blades and ever-shrinking ropes, leg-spin is a massive weapon; fire for fire, as they say. And, for T20s, it seems to have become an unsaid necessity.
It's perplexing then, to find out that IPL's most successful Indian bowler, a leggie, has just played 10 T20Is.
Then again, Amit Mishra's India career, spread over 14 years, has never been exactly smooth, debuting at a time when Anil Kumble was still India's premier spinner.
Mishra possesses most of the traits that make for a successful modern-day spinner, never shying from throwing a challenge at the batsman and tossing up the ball. And in the IPL, he is a valuable component to have, considering the knowledge and skill he walks in with.
In his 12th IPL season, Mishra might not be featuring in every game, but remains a key part of the Delhi Capitals, a franchise that continues to strike balance between the youth and the experienced.
In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Mishra speaks about the T20 format, consistency in IPL, India comeback, and more.
What's different for the Delhi franchise this time?
There isn't a lot of difference; the mindset is refreshed because it is a new franchise with a new name, and new players have come in. It's a young mindset, and the squad looks pretty eager to perform well.
Everyone wants to do well, every team wants to do better with the new squads, but there's a definite positive vibe around the Capitals, including the management and the coaches.
When the T20s first came along, you didn't have much trouble getting used to it. How did you quickly adjust to the new format?
Something that I truly did was to not leave my essence behind, one that has always helped me pick wickets. I just kept adding new aspects to it.
I retained the core, and enhanced it further by taking into account other facets, such as what the team's requirement is, how a particular batsman plays, how the pitch is acting, and so on.
Through all of this, I kept my originality which is flighting the ball, and just added new things to it. I believe that has helped me, a lot.
You're the most successful spinner in the IPL. How do you strive to manage the same consistency and intensity in your game every year?
Firstly, I maintain a positive mindset. I also try to understand the changes others are incorporating, and include them in my game as well.
I keep making subtle changes in my bowling by varying my action, my pace sometimes. The game keeps evolving every year, and I aim to adapt my bowling along that.
It's been working pretty well till now. Hopefully, it continues to be the case.
Of the three, which has been your most memorable hat-trick?
All three were very important to me. However, the best one was the first (for Delhi Daredevils against Deccan Chargers, 2008). It led to my comeback in the Indian team, and gave me recognition.
Post that, the value of a leg spinner in each team also increased.
At this stage of your career, you're also a mentor to the younger lot. How do you assist youngsters like Sandeep Lamichhane and Rahul Tewatia at DC?
I try and ensure that I do not make too many changes to their bowling. The advice is based on what the situation demands at that time. Now that helps more than changing something particular in their bowling, because then it can be problematic for them to try out.
I also try and tell them only as much as they can implement, and not more than that.
What's your impression of Lamichhane, in particular?
He's definitely a good talent. The best thing about him is that he prefers focussing on his leg spin, which is extremely important.
If you focus on your leg spin, all the additional varieties will seamlessly come along in your bowling. Consequently, your googly, floater and flipper will work well. But before all of that, it is imperative that you focus on leg spin.
Do you think young leg-spinners these days are getting increasingly defensive, given the tendency to be expensive in T20s?
I truly believe that spinners should bowl according to the situation of the game. That also means that they shouldn't be very defensive; wherever there's an opportunity to take wickets, they should go for it.
Are there any specific variations you incorporate when shifting from red-ball cricket to white ball?
I definitely change the pace on the ball (when shifting to limited-overs). In T20s, specifically, I continuously keep varying the pace on my deliveries.
Again, concentrating on leg spin is really important. As I had said earlier, if your leg spin is on point, all of your other variations also tend to work well.
Having played alongside Sourav Ganguly, and against Ricky Ponting, how differently do you see them as coach/mentor at DC?
We all know that both were very positive and bold in their captaincy. Even here (at DC), both are extremely positive and support each other. As a mentor, Ganguly tells batsmen how to bat in specific situations, how to play in what position. He also explains how to change the game according to the wicket, and which shots should be played more.
As has been the case throughout his career, Ponting has been very supportive around the players, and positive in his intent.
It's good to see them together. They ensure that the pressure on the players stays as minimal as possible.
Do you give inputs to a young captain like Shreyas Iyer?
Whenever (inputs) I think I need to (give), I absolutely do. As a captain, there are several things going on his (Iyer's) head. Whatever I feel important, I readily go to him and give him tips, so that he doesn't stay too tensed, and retains his focus.
A few inputs, here and there, are required, and Shreyas readily listens to it.
The Delhi side often shows promise, but ends up not being able to convert it into performance. How difficult is to regroup and come back strong?
This team is young and it has been well-assembled. It's the initial part of the season, and we're improving all the mistakes we're making. After winning against Mumbai, we lost the next game, where our batting felt a little vulnerable. Then, we managed to do well again and correct that. At Delhi, we almost chased down 185 (the match ended in a super-over).
We're continuously trying to resolve all mistakes. When the team settles down, you'll definitely see better performances. It's a good squad with a nice combination and a lot of positive intent.
It won't be long before it starts getting better for this team.
You debuted for Haryana in first-class close to two decades ago (2000-01), and continue to be with them. Did you ever contemplate on a change?
I got several offers, but when I needed help the most, it was Haryana that supported me. I can never forget that. I've always represented Haryana, and will continue to do so.
You were in good form (Mishra's figures in his last ODI were 5-15), before injuries came through and forced you out of the Indian team. How do you push your performances towards making another comeback?
Fitness is foremost. If your fitness is top-notch, you can make a comeback in any format, anytime. Ever since I have been fit, I am trying to maintain it and trying to carry it into this IPL while I keep performing.
Right now, I need to do well in this IPL and carry the team forward. I am planning to take things as they come.
I haven't kept any targets as such. The focus is on the IPL; when it ends, I will look ahead.
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