Could the India-Pakistan Asia Cup tie had a different result if Amit Mishra bowled the final over, and not R Ashwin? © Getty Images (File Photo)
After the Indian team suffered humiliating 2-0 and 4-0 defeats in their overseas One-Day International (ODI) trips to South Africa and New Zealand in 2013-14, and also went through a heart-breaking loss to Pakistan in Asia Cup 2014, Vineet Varma wonders as to whether Amit Mishra was the missing ‘ingredient’ in the Indian bowling line-up which has been treated with disdain by all and sundry atleast during those disastrous tours overseas. Ignored for long by the selectors, Vineet Varma voices his opinion on how the Haryana leg-spinner should have been selected over Ravichandran Ashwin during those forgettable trips and should have been saved to bowl in the last over of India’s one-wicket loss against Pakistan in Asia Cup 2014.
If you consider Amit Mishra’s overall career statistics for the Indian team, then it definitely does not make for great reading. Mishra has played 13 Tests and 21 ODIs for India in his brief career and has picked up 43 and 37 wickets in both formats of the game respectively which are not gargantuan by any cricketing standard. Agreed that the presence of spinners like Ravichandran Ashwin has sealed off Mishra’s entry into the Indian team but then this writer feels that such players should definitely be given an opportunity to at least prove themselves over a period of time.
If you compare Mishra to Ashwin, then the latter has the edge in terms of his ‘all-round’ abilities which also involve some good batting whereas the former is not a batsman at all. But when it comes to the bowling department, then Mishra certainly scores over Ashwin thanks to his chief ability to turn the ball whereas the latter relies heavily on his fastish spinners to take wickets. Ashwin though is highly rated amongst many cricketing pundits as the ‘next big Indian spinner’ when the fact is he only tends to take wickets while playing on sub-continental pitches.
The statistics speak for itself as Ashwin had a less than modest outing during the South Africa and New Zealand tours and could not ‘terrorize’ the opposition batsmen as he does so in the sub-continent pitches. Yet the fact remain that Mishra has not been tested on India’s trips overseas. Mishra may have added the much needed colour the Indian bowling needed during those two forgettable tours and could also have turned out to be India’s ‘X’ factor thanks to his ability to extract turn on any surface.
Though the selectors did later select Mishra for India’s crunch game against Pakistan in Asia Cup 2014, still it may have been too little too late as the spinner has already lost out on valuable playing time because he is already 31 now. If you consider that tie against Pakistan which India narrowly lost, then despite Ashwin picking up three wickets in the game, he proved too costly in the final over thanks to Shahid Afridi’s two booming sixes which cost India the game. Now on the other hand, if Mishra who picked up two wickets in the game and tormented the Pakistan with his flight and guile were to be given the final over, then maybe India could have had a chance to salvage the match.
There was always the possibility of Mishra getting the maverick Afridi out with one of his turners and who knows the match could have been in India’s bag. It would have been possible that Mishra could have held his nerve against Afridi and bowled India to a famous win or even a tie. But that is only hypothetically speaking and the fact remains that Mishra had exhausted his quota of 10 overs in that match and could bowl further no more thus leading to skipper Virat Kohli tossing the ball to Ashwin.
Mishra should be given more opportunities to play for India at least in the ODI format and should not be kept as a mere passenger as he was during India’s recent trips overseas. And who knows there is always the possibility of Mishra turning out to be a late-bloomer and invaluable asset for India thanks to his crafty bowling which may help India in the future matches to follow.
(Vineet Varma is a writer at Cricket Country. He can be followed @Vinfire19)