India’s recent tour of Sri Lanka was a grand success as the Virat Kohli led unit emerged victorious in an overseas test series after 4 years. While a lot of people credit R. Ashwin for the series win, it was Amit Mishra who stood as the unsung hero for India in Sri Lanka. The Haryana wrist spinner was among the wickets and also scored some priceless runs for India lower down the order.

In a recent interview with The Times of India (TOI), Mishra spoke at length about the memorable tour. Below, are the excerpts from the interview:

Was this a do-or-die series for you?

At this stage of my career, it was a sort of do-or-die series for me. If I wouldn’t have performed, it would have been curtains for me. However, I had the confidence that I would deliver if given an opportunity. I wasn’t overconfident but as I had worked very hard, I knew I would do well. Performance was the only thing in my mind. It has been a moral-boosting win for me as Lankans are known to be good players of spin. What’s important is that it has helped my team win a series in Sri Lanka after 22 years.

Which are the areas you have worked on these last four years?

I didn’t focus on one particular area. I wanted to improve my over all game. From fitness to bowling long spells in the nets, my batting and fielding. I have worked very hard on strengthening my shoulder. I am much fitter now. I bowled long spells in the nets to get my body used to it so that I should be as effective in my last spell as I was in the first spell. Playing domestic cricket always helped as our batsmen play spin very well. Important thing was to keep patience and using variations at the right time and bowl more leg-spin.

What clicked during the Sri Lankan tour? Did you speak to any senior?

I had toured Sri Lanka five years ago and played a Test. So I had some idea about the conditions. I had spoken to Hiru Bhai (Narendra Hirwani), LS (Laxman Sivaramakrishnan) and Anil (Kumble) Bhai on how I can be effective. I had also spoken to Harbhajan Singh as he has bowled a lot in Sri Lanka. Ravi Shastri and Bharat Arun (India bowling coach) also helped a lot. The wickets in Lanka are slow in nature so it was important to know what pace you are bowling at.

Hirwani said you are bowling with a lot of freedom and clear mind as the captain and the team management was backing you It’s true. The team management and Virat (Kohli) showed a lot of faith in my abilities. Virat wanted all of us to bowl with freedom. Whatever field I asked, whatever plans I had, he supported it. Whenever he felt like giving inputs, he told me. It helps a lot when you have a proper communication with the captain. Virat is a very positive captain and he’s handled the team with great maturity.

You played a crucial role in the lower order. How have you improved your batting?

I have always taken my batting very seriously. If you contribute something with the bat, it always helps the team. If you see, my partnership with Cheteshwar Pujara helped us post a respectable first innings total in the third Test. In the second innings too, everyone in the lower order chipped in. I captained my state for seven-eight years. I always expect something from my bowlers. As a captain, it gives you more luxury and confidence if bowlers can give you some runs. I think batting at Lahli (Rohtak) also helped as the conditions there are challenging as the ball swings and seams whole day. My technique got a bit tighter playing in those conditions.

Who supported you during this four-year period when you were out of the Test squad?

My family, friends and my association always stood by me. Whenever I talked to any selector, they assured me that I was in scheme of things and I should only focus on my fitness and performance. Seniors like Hiru Bhai, Anil Bhai, Sivaramakrishnan…they all supported me. One thing they all said was that spinners matured at 30 and give their best after that and If I kept myself fit, I could still have a long career.

You bowled a magical delivery that castled Jehan Mubarak. Was that planned or just happened?

I was discussing a lot about that sort of dismissal with Ravi Bhai. I had planned a lot. Whatever angle we had planned, the ball landed exactly there and turned just the way we wanted.

You are now the senior-most player in the team. Is it an extra responsibility?

I don’t consider myself as senior. However, since I am playing First Class cricket for long, I feel that responsibility on me. There’s no senior or junior in the team. We all enjoy each other’s success.