What is common between Vinod Kambli, Jennifer Capriati, George Best, and Amit Mishra? While Kambli could not become a Sachin Tendulkar, Capriati could not become a Steffi Graf, and while Best could not become a Pele, Mishra could not become an Anil Kumble.
There is not much to choose from in terms of talent between Kambli-Capriati-Best-Mishra and the players who had left them behind, but there is no comparison in terms of what the two sets of individuals had achieved.
Having never lived up to his immense potential, Amit Mishra has found himself to be more out of the Indian team than in it, appearing in only 19 of the 79 Tests that India played since his debut against Australia in 2008.
Once in the running to succeed Kumble as India's leading leg-spinner, Mishra today is only a fringe player, not guaranteed a place in the starting XI.
The Delhi leggie had a great opportunity to cement his place in the Test side as Harbhajan Singh's strike partner after Kumble retired (incidentally in the same series as Mishra made his debut), but could not do so.
With Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja having forged far ahead, Mishra now has to make do with being selected only to play a minor role.
He, however, never went out of the selectors' radar totally. For some time there was a real competition between Pragyan Ojha and him for a place in the side. The emergence of Ashwin and Jadeja meant that Mishra won't be featuring in a lead role.
But with Harbhajan falling out of favour with the selectors and Ojha not having played international cricket since getting banned by the BCCI in late 2014 for suspect action (though he was cleared a couple of months later), and also with the supply of quality spinners going a bit dry, Mishra continues to be considered, even if only as a back-up.
Mishra have been retained in the Test side on the basis of his current form, after a commendable performance in the recently-concluded ODI series against New Zealand, in which he bagged 15 wickets in five matches, including a match-winning 5/18 in the final one-dayer.
However, whether he would feature in the first XI is a matter of considerable debate. He may get a chance if the Indian team management opts for five bowlers – three spinners and two pacers – with Ashwin and Jadeja providing depth to the batting lower down the order.
But if India decides to play either Karun Nair or Hardik Pandya as an extra batsman, it would be difficult for Mishra to find a place.
The second course of action may be a possibility if Virat Kohli and Kumble decide that Ashwin and Jadeja would be enough to exploit the Englishmen's vulnerability against spin on the turning tracks of India, especially considering the fact the the duo accounted for 54 of the 70 wickets in India's home series against South Africa in 2015. In that case, the call would be to bolster the batting.
Mishra, though, would hope he does find a place in the eleven, and if he does, would look to play his part well – as he did in the New Zealand ODI series – howsoever small that part is.
"I have stopped thinking about how many matches I have played in so many years because it's not in my hands," Mishra was quoted as saying after the final ODI against New Zealand last month. "I've prepared myself mentally in such a way that whenever there's an opportunity, I give more than 100 percent," he added.
Losing out to Jadeja would be difficult for Mishra to accept, not only because both of them have very similar bowling figures in Tests (Mishra has 71 wickets in 36 innings to Jadeja's 85 wickets in 37 innings), but also because Mishra has more variations and guile than Jadeja. Their batting figures are also similar (Mishra has scored 648 runs in 31 innings, to Jadeja's 624 runs in equal number of innings). Perhaps Jadeja's superior fielding makes all the difference.
As far as his record against England is concerned, there is nothing much to write home about. Nine wickets in four Tests doesn't make for happy reading. His average (runs conceded for every wicket taken) and strike rate (balls bowled for every wicket taken) are the worst against England among all opponents.
Mishra would be looking to overturn this abysmal statistics. He has form on his side but will have to surpass himself to resuscitate his Test career. But would he get a chance at all to do that is the big question.
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First Published On : Nov 7, 2016 09:42 IST