Karnataka v Haryana, Ranji Trophy, Group B, Hubli, 2nd day December 23, 2012

Mishra latest in India's spin search

India's hunt for a solid second spinner has led them to the Haryana legspinner, who says he has sorted out his no-ball problems and improved his batting

At lunch on the second day in Hubli, Haryana had reached an improbable 412 for 7, thanks to maiden first-class centuries from lower-order batsmen Amit Mishra and Jayant Yadav. It was turning into a game-defining partnership and both batsmen walked towards the dressing room satisfied with a solid morning's work.

The entire Haryana dressing-room was applauding the pair's record-breaking partnership, but just as Mishra crossed the ropes, Haryana coach Ashwini Kumar rushed out and delivered the news that Mishra (who went on to score an unbeaten 202) was picked for India's one-day squad for the Pakistan series. There wasn't too much of a reaction from Mishra, and he walked on to be congratulated by his team-mates. Once Mishra was indoors, though, he let out a loud, excited yell which showed just how much the recall meant to him.

It's been more than 18 months since he represented the country in any format, a casualty of the disastrous tour of England when India lost their No. 1 Test ranking. As England's batsmen plundered the bowling, Mishra too had a rough time, with a chronic overstepping problem worsening his case, with 13 no-balls in two innings.

Bring that issue up again, and Mishra is quick to counter, even before the question has been completed. "I don't think it is a problem," he said. "Before, when I came back from injury I was aware of the problem, and worked on it, and now in the last six-seven matches I have bowled only about four or five no-balls, so I'm not worried."

India's spin bowling, for so long a major strength, has been weakened in recent times, especially with Harbhajan Singh losing form and his place. R Ashwin has established himself as the lead spinner in all formats but the back-up position in limited-overs cricket is still up for grabs. Legspinner Rahul Sharma rose to prominence in the 2011 IPL but hasn't been able to hold down a spot, and Piyush Chawla was part of India's World Cup and World Twenty20 squads without quite having the record meriting selection. Consistency has also eluded the allrounders Ravindra Jadeja and Yusuf Pathan. Pragyan Ojha has established himself in the Test side but the selectors haven't given him a long run in limited-overs sides despite being impressive in the IPL over several seasons.

India's spin problems have been eased by the emergence of Yuvraj Singh as a reliable spinner and fifth bowler, but the search for the second specialist spinner still persists. Which is why Mishra says he wasn't entirely surprised at being selected. "The way the new selectors are giving chances to new players who have been doing well … I have also done well in this season," he said. "So I was aware that maybe if I did well then at any time I could get the call."

The battle for a place in the XI is likely to be between Mishra and Jadeja, who has stormed his way back to national contention on the back of two Ranji triple-centuries in a month. Though Mishra may not reach the batting heights Jadeja has, he has repeatedly shown he is a handy batsman.

Even on that ill-fated England tour, there were fighting innings of 43 and 84 in the final Test at The Oval. This season Mishra has hit a crucial second-innings half-century to lift Haryana to their only win so far, over Delhi. And in Hubli, when he inside-edged a ball onto his pads on 109, he walked away and shadow-practised driving the ball before taking guard again.

"You can't just play as a bowler, the one-day format is like that," Mishra said. "You may be expected at any time to chip in with some runs, if some batsman is batting with you, then if you are able to score some runs yourself then it is a big help for the team, the partnership of 100-150 that you put on will be a boost for the team. It also helps in getting you a place in the XI."

Mishra says he has been working hard on his batting over the past couple of years. He's only been required to bat three times in his 15-ODI career, which means irrespective of his improved batting prowess, India will need him more for the wickets he can take. He was terrific on that front in his last one-day series, when he took a chart-topping 11 wickets in five ODIs in the Caribbean.

In India's muddled selection scenario where Twenty20 form can lift you to the Test squad (Rahul Sharma) and vice-versa, Mishra finds himself back in the ODI mix though he hasn't played the format even at the domestic level since October 2011. It's been a stop-start international career for Mishra so far, something he is desperate to change with his latest lifeline.

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on December 25, 2012, 11:33 GMT

    Mishra is a good choice since he is much improved in recent days while playing Ranji Trophy matches. This Haryana lad shown his mettle as a big batsman too. He deserves to be picked up in the national side in any format. He is like Yuvaraj in the team. A sound cricketer. Deserves to be encouraged.

  • Phani on December 25, 2012, 11:25 GMT

    There are soo many batsmen mishra ji...all we want is a geniune spinner...the article has over weighted Ashwin as a front line spinner..but he too like you is focussin on batting doing nothing in spin department..if you play in final XI..improve 100times in your bowling & your place is assured..in all good senses

  • Alok on December 25, 2012, 11:05 GMT

    Mishra is getting chances because there is hardy any right arm spinner available in india. I am very surprised to see more than a deozen left arm Spinners are now playing in Ranji Setup. Look the list - Mumbai has three lefty spiner Chavan, abdullah , H.Singh, Karnataka have kp Appana, Delhi have Vikash Mishra , Maharastra have Darekar , MP have Ankit Sharma . Up have Murtza, Jharkhand have S Nadeem, Orissa have Dheeraj Singh , railway have m kartik,Hyderabad have p Ojha, Punjab have B Sharma & list continue... almost all the state sides....., Not a good sign at all

  • Gaurav on December 25, 2012, 10:36 GMT

    Mishra, as per the domestic records is a better bowler than Chawla in all three formats. Rahul and Ojha have also done reasonably well in ODIs and List A and are on par with Mishra. Mishra's batting gives him the edge so this is a correct selection. But do not understand why Chawla is given so many chances and why is Rahul even considered for India A first class matches and in the Test team when he has an average of over 50 in first class.

  • Dummy4 on December 25, 2012, 10:30 GMT

    Ashwin is more of a batsman than a bowler, especially overseas. Great technique against the short ball. If Jadeja does not succeed in test cricket, Ashwin could be tried in tests as a no 6 batsman and a fifth bowler. This means some specialist bowlers have to take wickets. Harbhajan also improved his batting but his bowling went down afterward. Irfan Pathan is neither here nor there. In test cricket, having one allrounder is handy, but not essential. Having four wicket-taking bowlers is essential. With Yadav unfit now, India has none.

  • Dummy4 on December 25, 2012, 8:54 GMT

    Calling the selection scenario 'muddled' is very polite. Its a ridiculous world where Rahul Sharma -who did ok if not great- with the A team in NZ is overlooked in favour of the inferior LIMITED OVERS bowler Mishra. Even Chawla is a better ODI bowler though like Mishra lacks the necessary control.

    And whilst we're on this topic, utterly insane that Mithun can be selected for a T20 squad. Abu Nechim - to name one- is a much better T20 bowler. Selectors do not know the difference between different formats

  • Segar on December 25, 2012, 8:39 GMT

    Ashwin has won Man of the series in 2 of the 3 series he has played in India.Now even if you say he was not effective against a better lineup in England,I would say harbhajan and ojha were ineffective too.We got to admit we are in transition and we should give these guys a more time to prove themselves.Mind you even the legendary kumble and bhajji were ordinary during their early careers and did well once they got established.I would still back ojha and ashwin to do well in the bigger formats.I would want Ashwin to be the lead spinner in ODIs and use UV as the 2nd spinner wherein T20s may be guys like Rahul and jadeja who can be stingy can be used.Ojha is a typical test spinner,no guile but lots of control and can hold one end when there is no help

  • faizan on December 25, 2012, 8:32 GMT

    4 to 54 no balls in six to seven matches and yet he is not worried , intersting !

  • Dummy4 on December 25, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    Any reason why Ojha is not considered in the one day scheme of things. He was the only bowler who looked capable of picking up wickets in the test series. I think he is a good bowler, bowls good line and lenght and above all has good control. If his batting is the only reason he is not considered, then i think it is ridiculous. We need specialist bowlers please. If 7 batsman can't do the job then we dont deserve to win

  • Nish on December 25, 2012, 7:47 GMT

    I hope that Misra looks at these comments (He should as he never gets an article written about him that often and I guess is popular enough) and realizes what he needs to do or what the fans want him to do

    Concentrate on your bowling and no-ball problem is something I never understood how a spinner can end up with....even one no-ball per match

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