Gujarat Titans have started this season from where they left it off in last year’s title-clinching season. Having different match winners played a significant role in their team overcoming their flaws. And that continues to be the case in IPL 2023 as well.
After Rashid Khan and Shubman Gill led them to victory in their opening game, Sai Sudharsan played a fluent 62* to take them home against Delhi Capitals. If not for Rinku Singh’s heroics, Vijay Shankar would have almost gotten them over the line with the bat against KKR. Their most recent win was orchestrated by Mohit Sharma, on debut.
The Haryana-born pacer has been in and out of IPL teams in the past few years. In fact, he has played for four different teams in his last four IPL outings; PBKS in 2018, CSK in 2019, DC in 2020, & GT in 2023.
Before this game, the former purple cap holder spent a better part of the last few years dealing with injury woes. He made a comeback in the 2021 edition of the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, and was also a part of the GT setup, in their maiden season, as a net bowler.
Despite having represented the nation at the ICC World Cup, he had no qualms about being a net bowler. Having previously shared the dressing room with Ashish Nehra during his times at CSK in the 2014 and 2015 seasons, they shared a strong bond.
“Not many people knew that I had played in the domestic season. I got a call from Ashu Pa to stay with the team. I thought that being a net bowler would be better than staying at home. Being a net bowler is not a bad thing, it gives you a lot of exposure,” he said.
Outside consistent lengths, he’s also known for his ability to bowl good slower balls. Both of these skills were on display, as he managed to choke the Punjab Kings batters in the middle overs.
Mohit was brought into the attack in the 11th over, with Punjab at 75/2 and two aggressive batters who had gotten their eye in. His 10 years of IPL experience came to the fore, as he expertly used the ground conditions to his advantage.
The strip they were playing on had long square boundaries. All of Mohit’s deliveries in his first over were either back of length or short, forcing batters to hit towards the longer parts of the field.
His three-over-spell in the middle overs yielded only 12 runs. Two-thirds of these deliveries were short, and the rest were bowled on a good length. Not a single full ball in his entire spell speaks volumes about his accuracy.
He took out Jitesh Sharma early in his spell, as he managed to get a back-of-length delivery to move a hint away from the right-hander. He conceded just the one boundary in the middle-overs and single-handedly ensured that the Titans will be chasing a below-par total.
In his final over, he managed to get the prized scalp of Sam Curran with a slower short ball. He’s someone who has always believed in his shorter ones.
"Nobody expects my bouncer to come so fast because it skids as well. That’s a plus for me because my bouncer catches the batsmen off guard and as a result there will either be a top edge or they will get beaten. I have been hit for fours and sixes also off my bouncers but that's how it goes," he said in an earlier interview.
Outside that, he also contained the dangerous Shahrukh Khan to just one boundary at the death. He kept varying his lines and lengths to keep him guessing.
His coming good bodes well for the GT think-tank. Hardik Pandya not having bowled much so far this season, and Rahul Tewatia being used as a specialist finisher, meant that the one flaw in their seemingly well-oiled bowling attack was the need for a potent fifth bowling option.
From representing his country, to going out of favour at the IPL, Mohit Sharma has not had it easy. To then come up with a performance like this on his comeback at the highest level is a testimony to his skills.
With pitches only expected to slow down over the course of the tournament, his slower balls and pinpoint accuracy will go a long way in helping Gujarat defend their title.