Dhaka – Underrated Amit Mishra has transformed India's seemingly inadequate bowling resources into match winners, giving the former champions a perfect start in the World Twenty20 in Bangladesh.
The leg-spinner picked up the man-of-the-match awards in two almost identical wins over Pakistan and the West Indies in group two of the Super-10 round, pushing India closer to the semi-finals.
Mishra grabbed two for 22 in four overs to restrict arch-rivals Pakistan to 130-7 and fashion his team's seven-wicket win on Friday.
On Sunday, the 31-year-old claimed two for 18 in four overs to keep defending champions West Indies down to 129-7 in a match India again won by seven wickets.
Mishra, who has recently spent more time on the bench than on the field, has played just three Twenty20 internationals despite making 13 Test and 23 one-day appearances since his debut in 2003.
But he has continued to hone his skills in domestic cricket where he has been a consistent performer for Haryana state and the various franchises he has played for in the Indian Premier League.
“I am a positive thinker, I do not worry about the negatives,” Mishra said, when asked how he prevented frustration from creeping into his game.
“I always try to improve myself, talk to our coaches and the captain. I do not think about the fact that I am sitting on the bench match after match. I am just happy that everyone has supported me and kept faith in me.”
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who has usually preferred Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as his first-choice spin options, was delighted at the way Mishra was shaping up.
“I am really happy for him,” Dhoni said. “I could feel he was a little nervous against Pakistan, so I just told him to spin and flight the ball and use the variations he had.
“I was very comfortable the way he bowled after that. It is good to see the bowlers doing so well, but there is still a long way to go in this tournament.”
India will take on hosts Bangladesh on Friday and Australia on Sunday in their last two matches, needing to win both to top the group.
Seamer Bhuvneshwar Kumar set up the win against the West Indies by conceding just three runs in three overs with the new ball, but Dhoni was still searching for bowlers for the last few overs.
Ravindra Jadeja bowled a mixed last over against the West Indies, being hammered for three sixes despite taking two wickets. Against Pakistan, Mohammed Shami gave away 15 runs in the last over.
“We need one more bowler, besides Shami, to bowl at the death,” Dhoni said. “We will face a few big-hitters in the games to come.”
India were fortunate that aggressive West Indies opener Chris Gayle was run out for a 33-ball 34 in the 13th over.
India won the inaugural World Twenty20 title in 2007 under Dhoni but failed to make the semi-finals in the next three editions. – Sapa-AFP