Even amidst the various changes and surprises in India’s team selections for the limited-overs leg of the upcoming England series, Amit Mishra's case is a perplexing one. It is a throwback to the 2000s, and Mishra's own stop-start international career over the years.
While he has been included in the 50-over squad, his omission from the T20 series is, in many ways, inexplicable. It is also not the case that there is a clear theme of preferring “youth over experience” – as Yuvraj Singh, Ashish Nehra and Suresh Raina have all made it back into the squad – and goes on to highlight yet another case of stereotypes taking precedence over performance.
At the international level, Mishra has played just eight T20Is, and just one after the 2014 World Cup in Bangladesh, where he returned 10 wickets from 6 games at a measly 14.7.
Having toured the West Indies this year, India chose to take him to the USA for the T20 series in Florida, instead of flying down a separate squad all the way from India. The result? 4-0-24-3 in the second T20I, which was rained off.
If these eight games are too small a sample size to measure his true worth in the 20 over game, consider his IPL career, usually cited by selectors as one of the primary yardsticks for selection to the national squad.
He’s the second highest wicket-taker over the tournament’s eight season history, with 122 wickets from 112 games at an average of 23.53.
These are facts the selectors should well be aware of, and that makes his omission puzzling. He has changed IPL sides twice now, and auction paddles have always immediately gone up to avail his services.
At the international level, and to his own national selectors, there is a dissonance between what he has actually achieved against how he is perceived as a cricketer.
Is it his fitness? Can’t be, since he’s a permanent fixture in Test squads, for a format that takes the most out of a cricketer. Is it his batting? Usually doesn’t matter, since he has never been required to bat in the eight games he’s played at the international level. In any case, he strikes at over 90, and has a better track record in this format than all his bowling colleagues, including leading spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
His Haryana team-mate and another IPL success story, Yuzvendra Chahal, has been chosen ahead of him this time, and his returns in the Ranji Trophy and India A tour have meant he has been thrown into the mix yet again.
For now, Mishra will need to be content with the ODI berth, and make the most of his limited opportunities once again, as India prepare for a Champions Trophy title defence in England.
He will look to push on, perform in this three-match series and hope that, for once, he is not overlooked for team selection, when push comes to shove in June 2017.
At 34, his days are limited, and India need to utilize a top-class leg-spinner in the shortest format, as the best sides around the world expertly use them as dual-purpose weapons, capable of stemming the run-flow and picking up crucial wickets.
Mishra's strength has never been the former, but his recent performances, across both ODIs and T20s, have only reinforced his wicket-taking credentials. After all, this is the ‘horses for courses’ era we live in, and Mishra's legacy needs to go beyond just his IPL credentials.