It is fair to surmise that this has not been an IPL for spinners. R Ashwin has bowled little over three overs a match, Sunil Narine has played only six matches, and there is no spinner among the top five wicket-takers. Only teams with limited bowling options - Tabraiz Shamsi for Royal Challengers Bangalore, for example - have been bowling spinners out. The six-hitting ability of batsmen on these small Indian grounds has been their big problem, and fingerspinners in particular have been under siege. Ashwin made an important point that bad balls as we know them are no longer bad balls in this format, that short and wide is good for spinners.
Amit Mishra, though, has made adjustments, in a season where spinners are fighting for survival. That he is a wristspinner helps. He has the variations, and he knows when to use them. Unlike his earlier comings, he doesn't get completely blown away if he gets hit early in an over or a spell. He has two different legbreaks, two different wrong'uns, a front-of-the-hand quicker one - but more importantly now he knows when to use them. He would go on to introduce a new variation in Hyderabad.
On Thursday, with Delhi Daredevils coming off two defeats, Mishra came on to bowl with Sunrisers Hyderabad 80 for 1 after 10 overs. The fingerspinner, Jayant Yadav, had earlier dragged Sunrisers back with David Warner's wicket, but Shikhar Dhawan had now begun to look comfortable. In the 10th over, he had reached a run a ball with two swept boundaries off JP Duminy. In the seven balls since Warner's dismissal, 13 had been scored.
Now Mishra was given the responsibility at a time when the batsmen were looking to accelerate. That he was brought on in the 11th over meant there were not going to be any comebacks if he went for runs early. He conceded eight runs in his first over, four of them coming off a short ball pulled between deep midwicket and long-on. In his second over, Mishra pulled it back with four singles off the first five balls. He had already bowled five wrong'uns out of 11 on a pitch that wasn't helping him much. He didn't mind bowling them to the right-hand batsman, Kane Williamson, either.
Now was the time to protect the over. He had Dhawan on strike. He knew he was getting desperate, at 32 off 34. Mishra increased that desperation by giving away just singles off his next two balls to Dhawan. Then he brought in the new variation, a cross-seam ball bowled like a medium-pacer. The under-pressure Dhawan just swung, was done in by the pace comprehensively, and holed out.
More impressive was Mishra's next over when Yuvraj Singh hit him for a beautiful six off the second ball. This was a wrong'un outside leg, which Yuvraj either picked or got close to the ball anyway by using his feet. Mishra stuck with the wrong'un, but bowled this one outside off, not giving it away with his line. It beat the bat for a dot. A quicker one followed. Another googly. Three dots. The over redeemed despite the ordinary start, and he now had a desperate batsman in his sights again.
Mishra knows batsmen are looking for that one ball to hit. Once again he had a batsman who had no choice but to hit that big shot. It's important at these times to not be the hero and look to bowl the sexy ball. Just denying them the big shot can be enough. Yuvraj this time knew he was getting that quicker cross-seam ball, he looked to play the pick-up over short fine, but the ball stuck in the surface and Mishra had another wicket.
Mishra's 3-0-19-1 had left Daredevils with a chance to shut out the game with five good overs, which their quicks proceeded to do. With the couple of wickets, Mishra extended his lead as the most successful spinner in the tournament. Having missed out on the World T20, it might be even more satisfactory to him that he is also the best spinner in the tournament.