March 05, 2014

SPELL BOUND


AMIT MISHRA IMPRESSES WITH HIS INSPIRING SPELL

Courtesy: ESPNCricinfo
The Asia cup encounter between the sub-continental rivals lived up to the expectation. In a closely fought match which was scheduled on a Sunday to boost the TRPs, the mercurial Shahid Afridi led Pakistan to a memorable win over India with a single wicket remaining. Chasing a target of 245, a relatively easy total in a game unfairly favoring the batsmen, Mohammed Hafeez displayed superb all round performance which included a half century and a spell of 2/38 in 9 overs. He was judged the Man of the Match. While I am a bit disappointed that we lost, and lost to a political rival, the closely fought contest was indeed a boost to ODI cricket as a whole. At a time when many including some of the game's best are of the opinion that ODIs should be done away with in favor of the T20s, the nail biting finish will help bring some interest back into the 50 over format of the game. You see I am a little biased towards the ODIs; for all of us who were hooked on to the game in the nineties and the early years of the millennium, cricket was somewhat synonymous to the 50 over format.

As I go down the memory lane I can recollect several snaps from what seems to be a bygone era - the inconsolable Vinod Kambli walking back after in Eden Gardens after the match was awarded to Sri Lanka in 1996, Tendulkar's consecutive centuries against the Australians in Sharjah, Ganguly's brilliant 183 at Tauton in 1999, the spectacular victory over England in the 2001 Natwest Trophy and so on. Times have changed... The interest that I had in the game has all but waned off. A jam packed cricketing calendar, the bastardization of the game after the advent of T20, the 'bloody' IPL and most importantly, the retirement of my cricketing Gods - Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar has killed the cricket fan in me, well almost. While I do keep myself updated with the news about the sport that I once followed so passionately, the 10 odd overs that I saw during the Pakistani innings this Sunday was the only piece of live cricket that I have seen since the beginning of the year, at least as far as I can recollect. While the defeat still hurts, there was this one thing that impressed me the most.

When was the last time you saw an Indian bowler finish with figures of 2 for 28 in his quota of 10 overs. I mean, lets face it. In spite of the fact that we are considered amongst the top five sides in the 50 over version, our bowling attack is one of the weakest in the world. Apart from Mohammed Shami who has been the pick of our bowlers in the last few months, the rest have simply struggled. Zaheer Khan looks a pale shadow of the lethal weapon he used to be earlier, the young Bhuvaneshwar Kumar is failing to find the right rhythm and Ishant Sharma has become the butt of jokes for consistently leaking runs at crucial moments in the game. Though we cannot expect our pacers to spew venom on flat Indian wickets, the fact that they did not too well in ODIs even on overseas tour is a major cause of concern. While we have never had a great pace battery, it is very sad to see that spin, our tradition strength too has become 'impotent'. Ravichandran Ashwin is more of a batsman than a good bowler. Ravindra Jadeja needs to horne his cricketing skills soon so that the team can pick an additional specialist batsman or a bowler as and when the situation demands.

Coming back to the big clash, you may argue that Ashwin with 3/44 has better figures than Amit Mishra. However, if you had seen the match, you will know why I single out the leg spinner for praise. Considering that he had not played an ODI for the last six months, the kind of pressure on him was huge; in fact it was compounded many times by the fact that were facing Pakistan. However, Mishra looked lethal right from his first spell. With his intelligent bowling, he along with Ashwin applied the breaks on the Pakistani chase in the middle overs. He set up Ahmed Shehzad nicely as the right handed opener hit one straight to Ashwin to give Mishra his first wicket. He also removed the dangerous Umar Akmal whose mis-hit went straight up in the air as Jadeja snapped a good catch. Till his ninth over, the leggie had conceded a meagre 16 run. His economy of 2.8 was the best amongst the bowlers on either side in the match, a superb achievement when you take into account the presence of quality spinners like Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez in the opposition camp. After Mishra, the bowler with the best economy rate was the debutante Mohammad Talha who took 2 for 22 giving 3.14 runs per over. While his bowling has improved, it will be an additional feather in his hat if Amit can concentrate a little more on his batting too. More importantly, while stand-in captain Virat has showed his faith in Mishra, will Dhoni do so. With such form, it will be difficult even for Captain Cool to keep the leg spinner out.



IMAGES 

(1) Courtesy: ESPNCricinfo
We showed a lot of character - Kohli (Link)