From being a Gujarat Titans net bowler last year to almost taking the team to its 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 CSK to a record-equalling fifth title not only showed the character of the Titans captain but it was also an acknowledgment of the Haryana pacer’s immense contribution to their campaign this season.
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.
One doesn’t see him playing 50-over cricket again but can he sustain his form and fitness to make the Indian team in the 2024 T20 World Cup? It is a long shot with the ICC event scheduled in the West Indies and the USA right after the IPL next year but he has certainly made a strong case to be tried in the few T20s that the national team plays in a 50-over World Cup year.
One shouldn’t be surprised if Mohit partners alongside Deepak Chahar when India plays the five-match T20 series in West Indies and the USA in July.
Hardik, who is also expected to captain India in the next T20 showpiece, managed to get the best out of Mohit at Titans and after a performance like that, he would be tempted to give the wily pace another go at the highest level.
Mohit had broken into the Indian team 10 years ago following his exploits under MS Dhoni at CSK but it is his stint at Titans, that he has enjoyed the most.
His back-of-the-hand slower ball, cutters and knuckleball continues to trouble the batters but his improved fitness is also allowing him to bowl yorkers at a 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 after making his Titans debut last month.
Having removed the rampaging Ambati Rayudu and MS Dhoni off successive balls in the wee hours of Tuesday, Mohit gave the 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.