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Meet Mohit Sharma, one of the biggest surprises in the first half of this IPL
May 4, 2013
Who has taken the most wickets in Powerplays during this IPL? A 24-year-old right-arm medium-pacer from Faridabad who plays for Haryana on the domestic circuit. His 11 victims include Virender Sehwag, David Warner, Yuvraj Singh, Brendon McCullum and Cameron White: all defeated by nagging accuracy.
Mohit Sharma is unlikely to have been your top guess.
"I feel really good if you look at the names. They are big players all of them," Mohit said, a day after his three wickets helped Super Kings defeat Pune Warriors in Pune. "But when I charged in with the ball in hand, I never had in my mind who was in front of me."
It was his second three-wicket haul in the IPL. His first came against Delhi Daredevils at Feroz Shah Kotla, where he bowled a tight three-over spell, giving away just 10 runs. Two days after the Pune match, he played another influential hand, taking two wickets in the home encounter against Kings XI Punjab.
He may be relatively unknown outside cricketing circles in north India but Mohit was one of the most consistent bowlers in this year's Ranji Trophy, finishing the season as the fifth-highest wicket-taker. His 37 wickets came in just eight matches - his team, Haryana, semi-finalists in 2012, failed to make the knockouts this time.
As news of his promise spread, talent-hungry franchises knocked on the door of Anirudh Chaudhary, the secretary of the Haryana Cricket Association. It is understood that three teams were keen to sign Mohit before Super Kings won the day.
Sharma was one of five uncapped Indian domestic players Super Kings picked after a one-day bowling camp in Chennai in January. He was one of four fast bowlers - apart from Karnataka's Ronit More, and Uttar Pradesh's Imtiaz Ahmed and Ankit Rajpoot - shortlisted by Super Kings' bowling coach, Andy Bichel.
"Halfway into the Ranji season, I was told that there were chances that Super Kings might be interested," Mohit said. "I was attending the fast-bowling camp at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore when I got a call from them."
About 5ft 11in tall, he has a smooth delivery stride and relies on the outswinger for his stock ball. He says Bichel, the former Australia fast bowler, has played an influential role, building his confidence from the outset. The biggest correction Bichel made - which is still a work in progress - was to Mohit's body balance after he landed in his delivery stride; his body would be in an awkward position before he entered his follow-through.
After Mohit's match-winning spell against Warriors, his captain, MS Dhoni, spoke of how he was putting to use skills he had learned playing in Delhi's competitive environment. A good example has been Mohit's strategy against left-handers like David Warner and Yuvraj Singh on low and slow pitches like the ones at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi and Subrata Roy Sahara Stadium in Pune.
"Since both the pitches keep slightly low, my plan was to pitch the ball as close to the body of the batsman as possible," he said. Warner played on, attempting a pull against the short ball, and Yuvraj was caught behind off a cut.
Though he's a newcomer, Mohit said he was under no pressure when he sat in the Super Kings dressing room for the first time. "No doubt I was excited, but I was only observing to begin with," he said.
Dhoni's message to Mohit, at all times, has been clear: "The captain has always told me to keep things simple. The best method is to stick to a good line and not offer width, and bowl as many dot balls as possible, which would make things difficult for the batsman."
|"The biggest thing is: your attitude on the field is visible to everyone. So how you maintain your composure and perform in any situation is what matters"|
Mohit hopes to use the lessons from the IPL to his benefit in domestic cricket. "The biggest thing is: your attitude on the field is visible to everyone. So how you maintain your composure and perform in any situation is what matters. Even off the field, I have learned that these big players are just normal and treat me as an equal. That is a very good feeling."
His grounded nature comes from the grooming he received at the Haryana Cricket Association. He is not the first Haryana medium-pacer to play in the IPL - Joginder Sharma played for Super Kings, and Harshal Patel was one of the architects of Royal Challengers Bangalore's impressive 2011-12 season.
What sets Mohit apart from his team-mates is his consistency, both in domestic cricket as well as in the IPL. For this, one must credit Haryana physiotherapist Amit Tyagi, who oversaw his fitness throughout the domestic season. Aware of Mohit's stress-related issues with his shins, due to heavy workload, he managed the injury and recommended that Mohit be benched immediately after the Ranji season.
The advice was taken, and Mohit travelled with the team for various tournaments but did not play any matches. The rest and constant monitoring by Tyagi were the two big factors that allowed him to report fit for the IPL.
Ashwini Kumar, Haryana's coach, believes that the two off-season camps in the cooler climes of Nainital have helped bowlers like Mohit a lot. He says Mohit's strength has been his big heart, his ability to bowl according to match situations, and his ability to not get affected by what is happening around him - factors that have helped fast-track him into a strike bowler in a short period of time.
Mohit played just three matches in his debut Ranji season in 2011-12, when Haryana entered the semi-finals. They followed that up with a terrible start to the season just finished - losing their first three home matches to Vidarbha, Orissa and Baroda, largely because of batting failures - but Mohit, who picked up 19 wickets in these matches, did his bit to force the opposition to work for their wins.
"We were 55 and 66 all out in the first two matches and despite that Mohit made sure the opponents would not have an easy run to victory," Kumar said. In Haryana's fourth match against Delhi, again at home, Mohit claimed six wickets to help his team to an 83-run win.
Mohit said his roles at Haryana and Super Kings, both in terms of motivation and responsibility, are similar. Bowling with the new ball has helped spare him the pressure in the IPL of coming on when teams have got going.
He is not someone who experiments too much even when things are not going in his favour. "I try and stay within my limits," he said. "The more you think about something, the more you will pile pressure. Do your job, listen to people, do your homework."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Nagraj Gollapudi
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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