CRICKET Pace bowler Abhimanyu Mithun is eager to use the ongoing Champions League T 20 to showcase his talent and force the selectors to consider him for ODIs. SHREEDUTTA CHIDANANDA
Despite the night ending in defeat, S. Arvind will have taken some encouragement out of Royal Challengers Bangalore’s defeat in the opening game of the Champions League. With only seven runs to defend off the final over, the left-armer sought the ball, and almost pulled off a glorious heist. “I’ve been here three years,” Ray Jennings had said earlier in the week, “and I’ve seen Arvind go from a pretty poor, average cricketer to making a push into the Indian side.” Daniel Vettori had felt similarly, directing enormous praise at the 27-year-old’s contribution to RCB’s campaign in the IPL.
It is another matter though that both coach and captain had been asked for their views on youngsters in the side. Abhimanyu Mithun, Arvind’s Karnataka team-mate and five years his junior, it appeared, had escaped their attention. The former was only 22, had more first-class wickets against his name (despite debuting a year later), and had played for India. Yet, it seemed, they weren’t particularly enthused. It must be as exasperating for Mithun as for those who watch him that his barnstorming success in first-class cricket hasn’t found echoes in the shortest format. Sloggers and slow-bouncer merchants may thrive in T20 cricket but will be cruelly exposed over four or five days, it is commonly understood, but Mithun’s failure to adapt to the lesser version (as it is made out to be) confounds and disappoints.
‘Pace is secondary’
“In the T20 format, pace is really not important,” Mithun had said in the build-up to the Champions League. “Bowling in the right areas and bowling to the field is important. I’ve been planning that in the nets.” But Friday merely appeared an extension of his indifferent run from the IPL; bowling only two overs, he conceded 25 runs, Ashwell Prince feasting on deliveries ‘in the slot’. One thing he has been guilty of is not expanding his catalogue of deliveries; variations in speed – something bowling coach Venkatesh Prasad never lacked in his career – are few.
Indeed Mithun could do worse than learn from Karnataka captain Vinay Kumar. The latter is nowhere near as quick but has endlessly striven to develop additions to his repertoire (including the Malinga-imitation he showcased in the IPL). Only a T20 competition the Champions League may be, but Mithun will recognize that it is an opportunity to get noticed and return to the reckoning, as several IPL-influenced selections have shown. For unfair though it may seem, he now appears to have slid down the pecking order in the National scheme of things too. Varun Aaron, coming off the back of a fine Emerging Players tournament in Australia, was flown in to reinforce an injury-ravaged Indian squad in England; Mithun, having played in the West Indies as Munaf Patel’s replacement, should ideally have been knocking on the door. It could, however, have turned out much different.
For someone who first played serious cricket only at 17, having abandoned a floundering career in athletics, Mithun’s rise has been startling. Breaking into the Karnataka Ranji Trophy team in 2009, aged 20, he took a hat-trick on debut, emulating Javagal Srinath. The pacer topped the charts with 47 wickets (Vinay Kumar a close second on 46) that first season (2009-10) as a rampant Karnataka reached its first final in a long time. He may not have been Shaun Tait-quick, but Mithun consistently bowled in the high-130s, and appeared to be improving. Called up to the Indian Test side for the Sri Lanka series in July, he acquitted himself fairly well; bowling untiring spells on soul-crushingly dull pitches.
Mithun had every reason to be aggrieved with his subsequent treatment, when he was overlooked for series (Australia, New Zealand and South Africa) in favour of bowlers with relatively lukewarm domestic records like Jaidev Unadkat and Umesh Yadav. However he may now feel, the current season may well turn out to be career-shaping. “I will take this as another opportunity because each and every game matters,” he said here last week. “If you do well in T20, you will be picked for the Indian T20 or one-day teams.”
- He started playing cricket seriously only at 17 years.
- He started his career as an athlete.
- He did a hat-trick on his debut for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy.
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