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Playing for the country is a motivation: Amit Mishra

By Saurabh Malhotra -

Amit Mishra had made his international debut soon after the 2003 Cricket World Cup, and since then he has been trying to find a regular spot in Team India, as the presence of spinners like Anil Kumble, Harbhajan Singh, Ravi Ashwin meant one slot was always taken by the lead spinner. However Mishra has rarely let his team down, especially in limited overs cricket where his strike-rate is right up there in comparision with other spinners around the world.

Mishra looked back on the year 2016 in a chat with Times of India, and talked about his new focus which is fitness. He also praises head coach Anil Kumble and captain Virat Kohli for what they bring to Team India.

When asked about his efforts in 2016, Mishra said, "I think the biggest takeaway for me this season is the Man of the Series award in the one-dayers against New Zealand. When I look back, it gives me a sense of peace and satisfaction. One of the biggest lessons of the year has been to stay fit and avoid injuries. Given the number of youngsters coming into the team, it becomes difficult to make a comeback from injuries. One of the main criteria to keep a place in the team is fitness. The other thing I have learnt is to assess situations quickly, in terms of the kind of deliveries to be bowled to each batsman."

When asked about he keeps himself motivated, he said, "I have nothing else to do. Playing cricket is the only thing that I have known. I've always believed that if you are not representing the country, it is very important to go back and play domestic cricket. For me, motivation comes from the game and not the team I'm representing. Be it the Indian or the Haryana team, the motivation levels don't change. Obviously, playing for the country is a motivation by itself, but it is very important to give back to the domestic team. That said, I play to prove to myself that I still have the fire in me."

Mishra then talked about the importance of staying fit, "I have changed my diet and lifestyle and lost weight. I have stopped eating rotis and completely cut out carbs. Considering I'm a vegetarian, I had to work doubly hard on my diet. I've learnt to spend more time in the gym and respect my body, its needs and demands.The game has become faster and it is important to stay in sync. I've worked hard on it.

When I see the fitter players, I feel the need and urge to better myself and compete with them. Having said that, I also believe each one of us has his own limitations and we have to work around it. You have to pick and chose what is best for your body. I feel I have improved a lot over the past two years. I have become a better player and also gained a lot of confidence." he added.

Mishra also says he relishes the healthy competition for places, "Honestly speaking, it is very healthy competition. There is a lot of mutual respect among us. We gel very well and wish well for each other. In fact, when I like something about their game, I ask questions and feed off their knowledge and that has been a two-way process in our team. One of the key learnings for me from the youngsters has been to shed inhibitions and ask questions. Now I don't hold back my thoughts, instead I express myself freely. I wasn't like that before and I'm glad I've changed for the better, thanks to them."

Mishra then talked about working with Kumble, "As a coach, he is very humble and supportive. He is always motivating me to do better. Even during our playing days, I always enjoyed his backing, but given his accomplishments, I was hesitant and scared to open up to him. Now the equation has changed. He is more a friend and mentor now, so I open up to him easily."

Last but not the least, Mishra praised skipper Kohli for his energy, "I enjoy the energy and the fact that he leads from the front. I feel very motivated seeing him fit and positive. Whenever I feel down on the field, one look in his direction is enough to lift my spirits." Mishra concluded.