Mohit Sharma: World Cup player to net bowler to GT's trump card in IPL 2023
From being a Gujarat Titans (GT) net bowler last year to almost taking the team to their second straight IPL title, 34-year-old pacer Mohit Sharma has been the biggest comeback story of the just-concluded 2023 season.
Hardik Pandya’s comforting hug to Mohit seconds after Ravindra Jadeja’s final over blitz took Chennai Super Kings (CSK) to a record-equalling fifth title not only showed the character of GT captain, it was also an acknowledgement of Haryana pacer’s immense contribution to their campaign this season.
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Mohit may not have been able to nail the last two balls of the 15th over after an exemplary first four deliveries but nothing can undermine his efforts through the season as he ended with 27 wickets in 14 games, second only to teammate and friend Mohammed Shami.
Not long after playing the 2015 World Cup semi-final for India, Mohit had gone off the radar but eight years later, the experienced campaigner has roared back into the spotlight.
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Mohit had broken into the Indian team 10 years ago following his exploits under MS Dhoni at CSK but it is his stint at GT, which he has enjoyed the most. On Tuesday night, in the IPl 2023 final, he had sent back Dhoni for a golden duck, leaving the fans stunned.
He had made his IPL debut with CSK in 2013 and made a big impact in his first season taking 20 wickets in 15 matches. He had a great season in 2014 with 23 scalps and won the Purple Cap with CSK, but the returns diminished in the next six seasons.
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From being bought for Rs 6.5 crore by Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings) in 2016, he featured in only one match each in 2019 and 2020 IPLs, and did not play for two years (2021, and 2022) as he did not have a contract.
It was GT who offered him a Rs 50 lakh contract to play in IPL 2023 and he emerged as the joint second highest wicket-taker of the season. Incidentally, the top three bowlers (Shami, Mohit, and Rashid Khan) were all from GT with Shami winning the Purple Cap (28 wickets).
His back of the hand slower ball, cutters and knuckle ball continues to trouble the batters but his improved fitness is also allowing him to bowl yorkers at good pace.
“Majority of my IPL and India career has been under Mahi bhai. My good results have come under him, big credit goes to him for getting the best out of me. But what matters more for me is how much you are enjoying the game. The 2013-2016 for CSK was the golden period in my career but in terms of environment, it is the best I have experienced in the IPL,” Mohit had told PTI shortly making his GT debut last month.
Having removed the rampaging Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni off successive balls in the wee hours of Tuesday (May 30), Mohit gave Titans the hope that they needed.
In the 20th over in which he needed to defend 13, the first four balls were perfect block-hole deliveries which did not allow either Shivam Dube or Jadeja to get underneath them.
It seemed there was no way back for CSK until Jadeja’s brilliance took the game away from Titans in arguably the most exciting finish in tournament history.
Mohit could not be faulted for getting those two balls wrong. In the game of thinnest margins, he had done all he could.
Having lost his father amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Mohit’s perspective towards life has changed. He won’t be thinking about an India comeback but if that destiny has that in store for him, trust him to make an instant impact, just like he did in IPL this season.
Mohit Sharma’s IPL career
Matches: 100; Wickets: 119; Best: 5/10
2013: 20 wickets (15 matches)
2014: 23 (16)
2015: 14 (16)
2016: 13 (14)
2017: 13 (14)
2018: 7 (9)
2019: 1 (1)
2020: 1 (1)
2023: 27 (14)
(With agency inputs)