Harare: On a tour where India's focus has largely fallen on the prospects of a new generation of players, one name - Amit Mishra's - has flown under the radar. But over the first three One-Day Internationals against Zimbabwe, Mishra has done everything he could to put himself back in the mind of the selectors.
Prior to this tour, it had been almost two years since Mishra was picked for India, and the challenge for the legspinner was to make sure that this is not another short entry in a stop-start career. Despite making his international debut ten years ago, Mishra has played just 18 ODIs and, at the age of 30, one would expect that time was running out if he wanted to leave any meaningful mark on the game.
So far he has taken his opportunities in Zimbabwe with both hands, picking up nine wickets in the series, including figures of 4 for 47 as India crushed Zimbabwe by seven wickets on Sunday (July 28) to wrap up the series.
For Mishra, the biggest prize would be a place in the Test side for the tour of South Africa at the end of the year, and although it's an unlikely dream, it was on his mind. "I'm not in the Test side, but I'll try and do my job in the next two matches, and then it's up to the selectors," he said.
His googly has accounted for six of Mishra's wickets in this series so far, while he also brought an end to Zimbabwe's best individual innings of the series when he snuck a quicker delivery through Sikandar Raza's defences in the first ODI.
Mishra's figures in this series appear all the more impressive given that conditions have largely suited the fast bowlers, with early starts providing plenty of lateral movement in the opening hour.
To achieve that, Mishra admitted to having spoken extensively with Duncan Fletcher and Trevor Penney, the two Zimbabweans in the Indian backroom staff. "I've done lots of hard work on my googlies and variations and it's paying off," he said. "I've been waiting a long time for this, I'm doing my best and it's working for me now."
Although Brendan Taylor did not find Sunday's defeat as harrowing as the one on Friday, when Zimbabwe had chances to win the game, he did admit that there were obvious areas of concern. "I don't think we're mentally sharp enough," he said. "We're just not making the precise decisions at the right time and not putting a real price on our wickets.
"You'll see when they (Indians) bat, they generally grind it out and they don't give it away. They bat deep and they want to get a big hundred to put their team in a good position."