South Africa in India 2009-10 January 28, 2010

Life in the fast lane for Abhimanyu Mithun


Abhimanyu Mithun started to take his cricket seriously just three years ago, having only played with a tennis ball till then. By the end of 2007, he was harrying batsmen on the Under-19 circuit with his pace, scooping up 37 wickets in the Cooch Behar tournament, only one short of topping the charts. He was hoping that performance would pitchfork him into Virat Kohli's side that won the U-19 World Cup in Malaysia in early 2008. He didn't make the cut then, though, but two years on, Mithun has leapfrogged everyone on that victorious team to make the national Test squad.

He's done that largely on the strength of his favourite tactic: subjecting batsmen to an intense scrutiny of their technique against the short ball. He also likes slipping in yorkers but is generally a hit-the-deck kind of the bowler, whose usual delivery is the incutter to the right-hander.

He hit the headlines early last year when the Royal Challengers Bangalore coach Ray Jennings talked him up as an express bowler, but a quiet IPL followed. The buzz was back once the Ranji Trophy started in November; he ripped through perennial title contenders Uttar Pradesh twice on first-class debut, which included a hat-trick.

In two months, Mithun made the leap from near-anonymity to national selection. In that time, he became the highest wicket-taker in the Ranji season, snaring 47 and topping off the season with dazzling performances against UP in the semi-finals and Mumbai in the finals.

None of this would have been possible had his fledgling career as a discus thrower blossomed. He made it to the state-level as a teenager but couldn't progress beyond that stage. Cricket was only a hobby till one of his friends suggested he join a cricket camp, where Mithun enjoyed the experience of bowling with the leather ball, setting in motion one of most dizzying climbs to the highest level.

The son of a fitness instructor, he used to train regularly in his father's gym in his teens which has given him the sinewy build and strength so useful for a fast bowler.

Another of his strong points is the ability to send down the odd cracking delivery which surprises the batsmen even when he is not at his best. For example, in the Ranji final on a bowler-friendly track in Mysore, he was guilty of wasting the new ball by not making the Mumbai batsmen play enough, and was taken off after a four-over burst. Omkar Khanvilkar and Abhishek Nayar weren't troubled much early in Mithun's second spell either, but he snapped their resistance by bowling both with full, quick deliveries.

Even after a barnstorming season, eyebrows are bound to be raised when someone reaches the Indian team barely ten weeks after his first-class debut. Karnataka coach Sanath Kumar is not one of those surprised by the call-up. "From day one we knew he had the potential," he told Cricinfo. "He has the pace, bowling around 140kmh, and he has performed in every game, whether it is junior cricket or first-class cricket."

Mithun has been more of a shock bowler for Karnataka this season, rather than someone who nips batsmen out by pegging away in the channel outside off stump. "He has to start thinking about how he has to plan a batsman out," Kumar said. "That will come with experience, and being with the likes of Zaheer Khan will teach him a lot."

Over the past decade, plenty of Indian quick bowlers have made their international debut in a cacophony of hype, only to drop their pace and turn in lacklustre performances after a couple of years. The relentless grind of the Indian team has affected the likes of Irfan Pathan and Munaf Patel, and Mithun needs to be wary of treading that route. "It is important to be focused, it is important to keep working on the fitness aspect of the game," Venkatesh Prasad, the Karnataka seamer who was India's fast bowling coach till recently, said. "There's lot of distractions which come along your way when you are playing for the country but he should just keep doing what he's been doing to be successful."

Kumar also has similar advice for Mithun. "Not only me, but Rahul [Dravid] also has said the same thing to him, 'whatever you are it is because of cricket, cricket is the ultimate, focus on the game, all other things will come, but start focusing on other things and everything is over', and he knows it well."

Mithun has taken the elevator to the top, but with Sreesanth likely to be fit for the second Test, the Karnataka bowler's first stint with the national squad could be a short one. What should Mithun be looking to take away from this spell? "This should be a benchmark for him, that he's capable of getting into the team, capable of playing for the country," Prasad said. "He should take it as a motivational factor."

Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • kris on February 1, 2010, 7:33 GMT

    Finally the selectors are showing some courage, opting to give talent a chance. The attitude of bringing in fresh talent rather than going back to the ones who have been given ample chances, has to be encouraged. But why are people talking about an average bowler like Sreesanth who has to be shown the door. In the last match against Bangladesh he was the odd bowler who didn't take a wicket in the second innings of the first Test, going for 50 odd runs and spraying the ball all around, when Zaheer and Ishant harried the batsmen. It seems it is a good idea to limp off the field when you are playing badly, so that when you come back from injury, your bad performance is forgotten about!

  • Mubeen on January 30, 2010, 20:11 GMT

    I am happy for him,because of his efforts Karnataka made into the finals..!!As I too belong to Karnataka,I am looking forward to see him ball against the South Africa.He will get his chance when Ind Pres XI plays,the door of success is open,will wait an see if he gets into Team India..!!Good luck..!!All the best..!!

  • Sajin on January 30, 2010, 6:42 GMT

    Yes,selectors has done a right thing,a great reward for an upcoming fast bowler,he is deserved for it and we have to think about strengthening our fast bowler's bench as some of the present fast bowlers are slowly fading away and some other immersed in complacency. Some might have commented that he need to groomed further in domestic circuit,No,it's a wrong statement,for fast bowlers,their good time is in their younger age,let him give a chance,after grinding a long time in domestic flat surfaces,how a fast bowler will grow further,i am sure he has done enough to deserve a national spot,WISH YOU ALL THE BEST

  • sobnesh on January 29, 2010, 22:25 GMT

    I am happy with the selection of Mithun for Team India.He is a future prospect and wil have to be handled carefully.He should use this oppertunity to get the most from the bowling coach and Zaheer khan,the Wasim of India.But i still dont feel he is a 140+ bowler.The maximum speed at which he has bowled as far as i have seen is 135kmph and most of the time in upper 120s.But all that he needs to realise is that it is pace which will give him a place.I hope he works on that aspect becomes a genuine 140Kmph bowler.

  • P Subramani on January 29, 2010, 13:13 GMT

    I can quite understand the apprehensions of many readers on Mithun getting to play Test cricket after all the hype and expectations. That is so because in the past we have had some pace bowlers of much promise losing their way aftertheir initial success either because of fitness problems or lack of form. The prominent names that come to mind are Ashis Nehra Agarkar, Zaheer Khan, Irfan Pathan and Ishant Sharma who for the above mentioned reasons were not certainties in the Indian Team. I would like to point out here that Ishant Sharma bowled quite well in Bangladesh and seems to be getting into the groove and Zaheer is certainly nearly at his best. On the sidelines Irfan Pathan is certainly on his way back and I think is going to make a comeback soon. It is only natural to have apprehensions about Mithun given the above thoughts but we should be more optimistic about his chances because he is fit, quite relaxed and has a fine action. He has bowled well on mostly very dead wickets.

  • Arup on January 29, 2010, 12:54 GMT

    Its important that Mithun stays quick because that is the one thing India lack. All the top nations in test cricket have quick bowlers, and after Ishant's drop in pace, India lack one too! If Ishant can be consistently accurate and pick up wickets, no one should complain about his drop in pace. The best top bowlers in the world in the past haven't been really quick - McGrath and Pollock. If Mithun can provide raw pace and bounce at the start with Zaheers accuracy, Ishant can be the accurate bowler in the middle with the extra bounce he will create from his height, he is bound to provide problems for many batsmen! It will be interesting to see how he debuts, and hopefully he will add something to India's side that they've been lacking for years

  • Balaji on January 29, 2010, 10:14 GMT

    Hope he stays around that 140+ Kmph for a bit longer than ishant (2 months LOL).its highly imposible for him to get into the playing XI ,india will go with 2 spinners, and 2 pacer's(zaheer and Ishant), as all others said nagpur is dead track,there 2 ways that his life can proceed .one is " what if he's gets a place and picks up 1 wicket in full test match,and then play IPL go iinto a bad patch, andl loose his pace and go nowhere and other thing that might happen to him is= pick up a lot of wickets ,become overhyped(like ishant) and play IPL and slowly loose his pace and get into bad form, and loose his spot in playing XI....these 2 things have happened to all young indian pace bowlers, the only one to come above these struggle's is Zaheer

  • Manasvi on January 29, 2010, 9:57 GMT

    Exactly Sumeet. The last season D.Kulkarni was the leading wicket taker and now he is not anywhere near selection. even in the zonal match he has bowled poorly. He has evolved a lot as a bowling allrounder. If he can get his bowling form back, it will be interesting to see his progress. I was most disappointed to see that Ravindra Jadeja hadn't been selected in the BP XI. He's batted well in the zonal match and bowled well too. And he was the leading wicket taker last year in the Ranji and had a superb tournament with the bat as well.

  • NAGARAJ on January 29, 2010, 9:31 GMT

    S.Tyagi and A.Mithun, both should have been given chance in recently held India_Bangladesh Test series. Now tyagi is also there. i donot think A.Mithun getting his chance to make debut. Next test, Sreeshanth will be back. I think Mithun will share Indian dressing room. Finally everythng rests with almighty. Any how good luck A.Mithun

  • Sumeet on January 29, 2010, 5:25 GMT

    I hope he doesn't go the way Dhawal Kulkarni did. Where's DK on the selectors' radar now? The selectors must have the vision to realize the bench strength of pace bowling and persist with them. No musical chairs among Kulkarni, Dinda, Tyagi, Mithun, Nehra, etc.

  • No featured comments at the moment.