By Amlan Chakraborty
NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Contrary to popular belief, Twenty20 cricket rewards brains as well as brawn with the smartest spinners able to find a way to nullify the most explosive batsmen, according to wily Indian Premier League (IPL) veteran Amit Mishra.
Mishra's 124 wickets rank second only to Sri Lankan paceman Lasith Malinga's 143 in the history of lucrative tournament and the Delhi Daredevils player said spinners were not merely cannon-fodder in the shortest form of the sport.
"You must have variation if you are to succeed at this level," Mishra told reporters on Wednesday, the opening day of the new IPL season, joined on stage by his Delhi spin colleagues Jayant Yadav, Shahbaz Nadeem and Murugan Ashwin.
"When to bowl slow, when to go faster, it's important to get the maximum out of your variations. Sometimes it may not work, but if you are a quality bowler, you have more chances to succeed," added the 34-year-old, who has 22 test caps for India.
In a format dismissed by the purists as mindless slogging, Mishra explained the futility of merely trying to contain and stressed on the need to relentlessly pressure the batsmen.
"The spinner's role is very crucial in the first 10 overs. My effort has always been to take a wicket or two, while stopping the boundaries," said Mishra, whose three hat-tricks are the most by an IPL bowler.
Off-spinner Jayant concurred, saying slow bowlers would have to think on their feet to prevail in the battle of wits against the big hitters.
"To stop power-hitting, you have to be really aware of everything -- the batsman, the conditions and the situation in the game," he said.
"You have to read it really fast. Every ball in Twenty20 can win you a match. You just have to be aware of the situation and what the batsman is trying to do to outthink and outsmart him."
Left-arm spinner Nadeem said he would put his trust in flighted deliveries.
"Spinners must find the right line and length and deceive the batsmen in air," the 27-year-old said.
"Normally, batsmen try to score against you, so if you can deceive him in the air, you always have a chance to get him out," he added.
"If the batsmen have come up with new shots in the tournament, spinners have responded with new deliveries.
"You see the carrom ball and then so many are bowling the doosra, which has been around for a while.
"If the batsmen have innovated, the spinners too have worked really hard on their craft."
Champions Sunrisers Hyderabad host Royal Challengers Bangalore in the first match of this year's tournament later on Wednesday. Delhi start their campaign in Bengaluru on Saturday.
(Editing by John O'Brien)