Mithun steps up with lethal yorkers
Yorkers. The key for a pace bowler to succeed in limited-overs cricket. Time and again, pace bowlers have showed that a yorker - well-directed or otherwise - can swing the game either way. Abhimanyu Mithun displayed in Ahmedabad on Sunday how to turn a game in his team's favour by executing perfect yorkers consistently.
In the semi-final of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, Bengal required 22 runs off the last three overs. Subhajit Banerjee and Saurasish Lahiri managed a boundary each in the first four balls of Mithun's penultimate over to bring the equation down to 13 off 14. Then, the lanky bowler found his key weapon going.
The last seven balls he bowled - most of them being yorkers - fetched Mithun three wickets for just two runs to keep Karnataka's dream run on the domestic circuit alive.
"The situation was such that we required wickets to get back into the game. And the ball was reversing as well, so I just backed myself to bowl yorkers and I am delighted it worked," Mithun told ESPNcricinfo from Ahmedabad on the eve of Karnataka's final against Punjab.
Bowling yorkers, especially in the death overs, doesn't come easily. But Mithun was confident since he had worked on it. "I have been working on it for a while now, and I had delivered it consistently during the league stage, so I went for it knowing that I wouldn't miss the length," he said.
Mithun's ability to hit the block hole in the death overs augurs well for Indian cricket since many Indian pacers have failed to hit the right lengths in international matches. Perhaps Mithun's ability to do it again and again will help him get back on the selectors' radar once again.
After impressing on placid tracks in Sri Lanka during his debut Test series in 2010, Mithun has hardly been persisted with by the national selectors. The last time he featured in India's squad was two years ago, when he was roped in as a replacement for his Karnataka captain Vinay Kumar during the home T20s against England. And finishing with an impressive haul of 41 wickets in last season's Ranji Trophy also did not earn him a call for the India A tours earlier in the year.
Mithun admitted that he being overlooked by the selectors has been "difficult to deal with." He couldn't have asked for a better person than Vinay to have helped him remain positive in such a situation. Vinay has spent more years in the domestic circuit than Mithun in an attempt to play international cricket.
"As a captain, as a senior player, he [Vinay] has been a great help," Mithun said. "He has helped me in thinking of how I can keep improving myself and delivering for the team rather than thinking about things that are not in my hands. Many times, he walks up to me voluntarily and discussed about many things, which is great."
The duo's partnership has flourished on the field and has been a key factor in Karnataka continuing to dominate domestic circuit since last season. While they achieved the triple of Ranji Trophy, Irani Cup and Vijay Hazare Trophy last year, Vinay's team is now one step away from retaining their one-day title. If Mithun and Vinay repeat their heroics with the bat - their unbeaten 46-run partnership for the last wicket against Bengal was instrumental in Karnataka setting up a respectable target - and the ball, Harbhajan Singh's Punjab will find it difficult to win the title.
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo