Mature Mithun makes his talent count again

Mature Mithun makes his talent count again

That how an umpire calling Anil Kumble during a local match turned him into a most successful Indian leg-spinner from being an aspiring medium pacer is well chronicled. Not many, however, know that a coach’s decision to deny Abhimanyu Mithun the batting, once his preferred craft, resulted in the strapping lad become a paceman.

Mithun was in his teens when he was a feared batsman in tennis-ball cricket circle and on someone’s suggestion, he decided to try his hand in leather ball. “I used to play a lot of tennis ball cricket,” the Karnataka paceman said. “I played a lot of tennis ball tournaments and did quite well in them as a batsman. And some people suggested me to try leather ball cricket. I went to YMCA but the coach there never gave me batting saying ‘if I give you batting, nobody will get you out, so you better bowl.’ I began bowling from a short run-up like I used to do with tennis ball. But even then I was generating a lot of speed. So I was asked to bowl from a longer run-up. And when I saw batsmen struggling against my pace, I began to enjoy my bowling and seriously started practicing it from then onwards,” he recalled.

For someone who started serious cricket only at 17, Mithun has shown remarkable progress that has seen him play for India right after his impressive first-class debut for Karnataka in the 2009-10 season. However, his international appearances since his debut in 2010 against South Africa in an ODI, have been few and far between. There is no doubt that National selectors weren’t entirely fair to Mithun but that he allowed their indifference affect his game, in a way, has prolonged his wilderness from the national squad.

Encouragingly, the 24-year-old has left his disappointments behind him and came up with his second best Ranji performance in five years. The right-arm bowler bagged 41 wickets, the most in his team, in Karnataka’s title-winning campaign that has put the focus back on the bowler.

The owner of 178 first-class wickets from 50 matches, admitted that him being ignored for some senior and ‘A’ tours did leave him disillusioned. “After the first year, I began to think a lot about my selection. So many people got picked for ‘A’ tours though I had done quite well. I never understood why I never got an extended run. Every time I went in as a replacement, I did well but the next series I would see my name missing from the squad.”

Mithun did receive rough treatment following his two Test stints. After bowling as well as any other Indian paceman on the unresponsive Sri Lankan pitches in 2010, he was dropped for the subsequent South African series. Similarly, he went to the West Indies as a replacement in 2011, played a Test and was overlooked for the England tour. A seemingly unfit RP Singh was summoned from nowhere, and shockingly enough, played the final Test at the Oval. On the Australian sojourn, he played no more than a practice game.  

“It did work on my mind,” said Mithun, adding that his team-mate Robin Uthappa’s pep words helped him come out of the negative mindset. “At the start of the season, I was playing in Safi Darashah, when India ‘A’ team was picked but I wasn’t there while players who hadn’t performed that well had been included in the squad. I was bowling well and I had done well in the Duleep Trophy too. I was very sad to be honest.
After that (Safi Darashah) match, I was sitting alone disappointed when Robin came and sat next to me and told me ‘just think you are in a 100 metres race where the sprinter, if he wants to win, can’t afford to see or think where his opponents are.

Similarly, if you want to be back in the national squad, you can’t be thinking about others. That actually helped me a lot to focus my attention back on my game,” he reasoned. 

The 6’ 2’’ bowler, who has chiselled his body at his father’s gym from an early age, feels physically he is more ready than ever.

 “Mentally I was ready but physically I think I was a bit down,” he said of his first international assignment. “I was picked right after my first season where I had played virtually every match, Ranji to Duleep Trophy matches. I believe my body wasn’t conditioned enough to take that load at that point in time. I have pushed myself a lot, be it my fitness or bowling. When I started off, my only aim was to go out there and bowl as fast as possible. But with experience, you also mature a lot,” he offered, his immediate goal firmly on doing well in the Irani Cup against Rest of India, starting here from Sunday.

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