Amit Mishra will turn 33 this November. He has been a first-class cricketer since 2000, and made his international debut more than 12 years ago. Yet now is the most secure he can feel about his place in the side. This is the first time he is starting a home season with reasonable hope of playing a significant part in all three India squads. Before the Sri Lanka Tests in August this year, Mishra had played every match of a series only twice - against South Africa in 2010 and against England in 2008, both at home - but even then he did not feature in the limited-overs sides on those tours.
The only other time he was picked in all the matches of a series - not counting those when first-choice players were rested - was the World Twenty20 last year, when Mishra repaid the faith by ending up as India's second-best bowler, only to be left behind later in the year by Karn Sharma in the Tests and Axar Patel in the World Cup side. If he was hurt, he did a good job of not making it apparent. With the Sri Lanka tour and a dearth of spin, especially with Ravindra Jadeja not coming back the same bowler post a shoulder injury, Mishra has capitalised on the opportunity. He can now feel comfortable that he is a first pick in all squads. Except that he isn't taking his place for granted.
"Whether I will play depends on captain and team management," Mishra said on the sidelines of India's pre-season preparatory camp in Bangalore. "I still can't say I will play all the matches, but yeah I can say that the way I have performed I should get some matches. I am positive in my mind, I am positive about my bowling, I am looking to improve."
Mishra knows better than to take his place in the side for granted. He has been in and out of the side most of his career. As he said in an interview with ESPNcricinfo earlier this year, Mishra has come back a more mature legspinner. He has shown better control of his legbreak, and through some variations has shown he can get better of his old problem: slow turn, which used to let batsmen recover even if he beat them in the air.
Asked if he has ever bowled better, Mishra said: "I can only say I have improved. I have worked hard."
Asked about the slowness, he said: "Yes I needed to work on bowling the right pace for different pitches and different batsmen. I have worked hard on my fitness, on my strength. Now I feel I can bowl the pace I need."
How much confidence does being assured of a place give him? "Nobody should think along the lines of whether he is in the side or not," Mishra said. "Just work on your bowling. I have just thought of ways to improve over the last four-five years. That chases out negative thoughts from your head.
"No doubt you are disappointed when not part of the team, but whenever I have been left out of the team I have looked for ways to improve. Work on my fitness [apart from the bowling]. Work on my fielding. Work on my batting."
Mishra said he worked on his batting too to become more valuable to the side. He said he learnt the value of lower-order runs when he captained Haryana, when he always looked for extra runs from himself and fellow bowlers. In a team that is looking to play five bowlers, Mishra's runs will be welcome.
On Thursday Mishra, along with 29 of India's best cricketers, will begin to work on his bowling, batting and fielding again after a short break. Thursday will be the fourth day of India's pre-season camp, which got off to a slow start with the board president dying on the eve of the camp.
The first three days have been all about medical appraisals and fitness work. Players have mostly stayed indoors. They began with a visit to Hosmat Hospital for a medical check-up followed by training in the gym of National Cricket Academy at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium. MS Dhoni and Ambati Rayudu had a net session on Wednesday, but it was optional activity.