Amit Mishra came into the series not knowing if he would remain a part of India's ODI plans when the team's lead spinners - R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja - returned from a rest. By the end of the fifth ODI in Visakhapatnam, however, he had not only emerged as the highest wicket-taker, but also produced a spell of 5 for 18 to lead India's 190-run rout of New Zealand to help them clinch the series 3-2. He picked up two or more wickets in every game and finished with 15 wickets to claim his first Man-of-the-Series award.
Mishra, who will turn 34 next month, said he knew he had to perform given the stage his career was at. "It has become a trademark of sorts that 'Amit ayega toh wicket nikalke dega' (once Amit comes on, he will get wickets)," he said after the match. "I always see how I can become a wicket-taking bowler. I focus on the match ahead, and try to do well according to the match situation. If I start thinking a lot about achievements, then I'll end up putting more pressure on myself.
"I'm happy for all the hard work I've put in. I think it's the second series where I've played five matches continuously. Because it was the final match, there was a lot of pressure to perform well here. Feels great."
Mishra was introduced into the attack in the 12th over, with Axar Patel bowling at the other end. He began by bowling predominantly short in his first two overs and conceded 11 runs.
"When I started bowling, I was a little worried about the boundaries. So, [MS] Dhoni came to me and asked me to bowl my normal deliveries and go for wickets."
After Axar dismissed Kane Williamson in the 15th over, Mishra removed Ross Taylor and BJ Watling in the space of three deliveries in the 16th. He then ran through the lower order as New Zealand were bowled out in the 24th over. Mishra said he wasn't surprised by the visitors' collapse that had them go from 62 for 2 to 79 all out.
"The way we have bowled and batted in the series and the effort we have put in, I am not surprised," he said. "I knew if we took one-two wickets, with the kind of bowling we had and the hard work we were putting in in the field, I was confident we could bundle them out quickly."
Since his debut in 2003, Mishra hasn't been a regular, featuring in only 36 ODIs in the 13-year period. He said he had stopped thinking about things beyond his control, like selection. "I focus a lot more on what's in my hand, like improving my fitness and my batting."
This was in evidence from Mishra's diving stop while backing up, a marked improvement from previous games.
"I have stopped thinking about how many matches I have played in so many years because it's not in my hands," he said. "I've prepared myself mentally in such a way that whenever there's an opportunity, I give more than 100%."
Like he had done earlier in the series, Mishra expressed his gratitude towards coach Anil Kumble for sticking by him, especially when he had not featured in the XI during any of the three Tests that were played before the ODIs.
"The small tips I get from him have made a huge difference to my bowling," Mishra said. "He speaks about the seam position, the fields I can set and the importance of mental toughness. He also told me that I should improve my batting, and whenever I get a chance I should support the team with my batting. Whenever something was going wrong, Anil bhai supported me mentally.
"When I sat out of all the Test matches against New Zealand, he supported me a lot. He would say, 'Don't worry, your time will come.'"