Mohit revels in 'dream' debut
Mohit Sharma revelled in a "dream" debut after he helped skittle Zimbabwe for just 144 in the fourth ODI in Bulawayo. Entrusted with the new ball, as he had been through most of the IPL by MS Dhoni, Mohit made the first incision for India with the wicket of Sikandar Raza and then returned to remove Malcolm Waller in the batting Powerplay to snap a stubborn middle-order stand.
"Yeah, it all feels like a dream," Mohit said. "But I have worked on my bowling and it is showing. I am ready to do well in whatever opportunity I am going to get. I was just focusing on keeping things simple and sticking to basics. I did not want to try too many things and it worked for me today."
It was that same formula that first brought Mohit success in the Ranji Trophy with Haryana and it also worked a treat at this year's IPL, where he emerged as one of the most miserly and effective new-ball bowlers of the tournament. It was also noticeable that, during every Indian nets session on this tour, Mohit consistently impressed with his ability to hit a length on or around off stump with almost every delivery.
A correct call at the toss by Virat Kohli supplied Mohit with almost ideal conditions this morning and, apart from a single wide probably brought about by nervous excitement, his first over in international cricket was exemplary. He beat Vusi Sibanda's bat four times in that first over, and it wasn't until his third that a run was scored off the bat.
It was his stock outswinger that brought his maiden wicket, with Raza feathering one behind, and Mohit's opening six-over spell yielded just 13 runs. After a brief turn in the middle overs, Kohli brought him back for the Powerplay, with a well-set Waller and Elton Chigumbura having taken 11 runs from the first over under the fielding restrictions. Sharma responded to his captain's call with Waller's dismissal, also via the outside edge. A battling 80-run stand was broken, and Zimbabwe quickly subsided.
"It is difficult to bowl in Powerplays but we work hard in practice sessions," Mohit explained. "We create match situations during training and bowl a lot and that has helped in matches. And that is why we don't feel much pressure in matches. Playing under Mahi bhai [Dhoni] and in pressure conditions has taught me a lot. I am just carrying that experience into the international level."
Everyone already knew that Mohit could do a job with the new ball, and such was the ineptitude of Zimbabwe's batting that his ability to vary his bowling with slower balls - which, again was on prime display in the IPL - and yorkers has not yet been tested. He's in no rush to add new strings to his bow, however, and given his successes so far that's understandable.
"After coming into the Indian team I have learnt a lot from bowling coach Joe Dawes. It's just about sticking to the basics and working on your strengths and improving on that. As far as learning new things in bowling, I can do that later and not in match situations. Now I want to focus on the next game and doing well in that as well."
Liam Brickhill is a freelance journalist based in Cape Town