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Flightless, Delhi Ranji spinner Vikas Mishra takes off in style

Left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra has claimed a bucketful of wickets in Delhi’s progress to the Ranji Trophy final after 10 years.

cricket Updated: Dec 21, 2017 11:04 IST
Siddhartha Sharma
Siddhartha Sharma
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Vikas Mishra,Ranji Trophy,Delhi Ranji team
Vikas Mishra has been prolific in Delhi’s Ranji Trophy campaign this season.(Getty Images)

Delhi left-arm spinner Vikas Mishra couldn’t have wished for a better comeback. Having last represented the Ranji Trophy side in 2013-14, the 25-year-old grabbed a recall this year with both hands and sits atop the bowling charts with 32 scalps, after playing just six games.

More wickets should follow when Delhi take on Vidarbha or Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy final at Indore from December 29. That semifinal is keenly poised going into the final day in Kolkata.

Returning to Delhi after crushing Bengal by an innings in three days at Pune, Mishra is asked what he did differently this season. “I didn’t flight the ball,” comes the reply. Really? How could a spinner snare 32 wickets without flighting the ball, especially on Indian tracks? Mind you, this is what he terms as going back to basics.

Tall, flightless

Ravindra Jadeja’s picture pops up in your mind, but the crackling voice at the other end of the phone call returns the focus to Mishra. Is he from the same mould? Jadeja gives the ball air sometimes, but Mishra just confirmed he won’t. Spin legends may not consider him a spinner. No matter what the purists think, Mishra says he will stick to his strengths.

“I stand at 6’2 and can’t flight from such a height. I tried flighting the ball in 2013-14 and got the stick, got no wickets and was dropped. So, went back and bowled with the same trajectory I used to and made sure I pitched the ball in the corridor. I did that this season with an additional focus on restricting run flow and the results followed,” Mishra said.

He credits Delhi bowling coach Manoj Prabhakar for his progress. A wily seam bowling all-rounder for India and Delhi, Prabhakar has also passed on his craftiness to Mishra. “He told me to bowl at the same trajectory but made me use the crease a lot more. On some occasions, he would tell me to reduce my speed a little as variation. The best example of that was my wicket of Rahul Tripathi who failed to pick the variation and was trapped. Delhi won. I restricted the runs while Manan could attack. This way we both benefitted,” Mishra said.

Manan Sharma, also a left-arm spinner, too has thrived, with the difference in their approach helping avoid the sameness.

Mishra also received advice like what Prabhakar gave him from India off-spinner Jayant Yadav at Chemplast in the Chennai league during his lean years.

“Jayant bhaiyyaa told me with my height, high-arm action is a strength and I should focus on the spot rather than think too much about flighting the ball. That gave me confidence and I targeted the stumps more often.”

His breakdown of dismissals aptly explain his approach of bowling dead straight. Out of 32 wickets, 16 are leg before or bowled. The rest have come with the help of fielders stationed around the batsmen.

Mishra’s performance has vindicated Delhi selector Atul Wassan’s decision to back specialists.

“I went by intuition, and also saw him bowl so well in the nets. We also wanted to put an end to the rampant groupism that had been ruining Delhi cricket. I also sat with (Delhi Ranji coach) KP Bhaskar, got him on the same page and told him Delhi needed a specialist spinner and not just all-rounders. Very happy to see Mishra performing like this,” the former India pacer said.

Picking specialists has helped Delhi, who have reached the Ranji Trophy final after a gap of 10 years. A team needs to pick 20 wickets to win, and Delhi has ticked that column this time.

In eight games, Delhi bowlers have picked 144 wickets, and 70 of them by spinners. Mishra (32) and Manan Sharma (25) have been the leaders in the spin department. Last year, Delhi suffered playing only all-rounders. The side could collect only 111 wickets and the spinners’ contribution was a dismal 42. And they failed to reach the quarterfinals.

Wassan said Mishra is also enjoying captain’s confidence. “Sometimes old captains carry a baggage against a spinner. This time as Delhi has a new captain, there is a fresh perspective and Mishra is enjoying the confidence given to him. I remember, Sourav Ganguly never promoted a left-arm spinner because maybe he thought he could dominate them so everybody could do that. But if a bowler is getting the backing of the skipper, halka spinner bhi takda ban jata hai,” Wasan said.

First Published: Dec 21, 2017 09:57 IST