Whenever there is debate over Amit Mishra's place in India's limited-overs side, a few standard arguments against his selection come up. His slowness in the field and limitations with the bat hampers the team's flexibility. Or that Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel add more all-round value. Two of his dismissals in the Mohali ODI against New Zealand, however, make a compelling case for why Mishra should be in the XI.
In the 29th over, he floated a loopy leg break that drifted into middle and leg stump. Ross Taylor, batting on 44, was looking dangerous for the first time in the series. Seeing that a regulation single through midwicket was on offer, he ventured a flick and in the process strayed out of the crease. By then, the ball had dipped and spun across Taylor, and MS Dhoni completed a stumping.
In his next over, Mishra bowled a similar delivery outside off stump to Luke Ronchi, who missed a drive and dragged his back leg out of the crease for just an instant. Dhoni's hands were right by the stumps, and unlike other wicketkeepers, there was no give in his gather; the Mishra-Dhoni combine accomplished another stumping, and a collapse was set in motion.
For all that he offers as an attacking legspinner, Mishra might not have been picked had R Ashwin and Jadeja been available. And he could well go out of the squad when they come back from a rest. In the World T20 in 2014, Mishra was India's second-highest wicket-taker. He had to wait more than two years for his next T20I. Earlier this year, on India's limited-overs tour of Zimbabwe, he was passed over and Yuzvendra Chahal played as the first-choice legspinner.
Mishra is a rare breed in limited-overs cricket - a crafty spinner beating batsmen in the air, and manufacturing wickets even when batsmen are not taking risks. One-day teams need a bowler of this kind to be effective in the middle overs. With eight wickets in this series at an average of 19.37, Mishra has been the most successful bowler on either side.
The problem though is in a team that has Ajinkya Rahane and Umesh Yadav capable of hitting the stumps from the deep, Mishra has been caught on his heels. In the ninth over in Mohali, he overran the ball and what should have been a straightforward save became a boundary.
Then there is his batting. Mishra has four Test half-centuries, including one in the Antigua Test in July, but averages 4.14 in ODIs. That doesn't compare favourably with Jadeja's or Ashwin's.
In Mishra's defence, he has faced only 65 balls in 10 innings, but dismissals like the one in Delhi, where he mistimed a slog instead of helping Hardik Pandya take the game deep, will be held against him.
To an extent, Mishra has the right to feel aggrieved about the stop-start pattern of his limited-overs career. Or he could look at two more chances, in Ranchi and Visakhapatnam, to reinforce his bowling credentials as much as show improvement in the field and with the bat.