Once an IPL Purple Cap winner and a World Cup semi-finalist, Mohit Sharma finds himself out of an IPL contract and hasn’t played for India in six years. What happened to the talented quick?
Breakthrough IPL and rise to Indian team
About a decade ago, India moved away from its batting-dominated setup and focussed extensively on developing their fast-bowling reserves, inducting a fresh batch of quicks into their white-ball squads. Among those tried was Mohit Sharma, a well-built bowler with bustling pace, who earned an India call-up after a landmark domestic season in 2012/13, where he emerged as the fifth-highest wicket-taker in the Ranji Trophy.
It wasn’t until IPL 2013, though, that Mohit truly earned his identity. Plucked by MS Dhoni in the auction to be Chennai Super Kings’ new-ball bowler, he troubled batsmen with his nippy, suffocating lines, hitting the deck hard and proving to be quite a handful in the first six overs. In his debut IPL campaign, Mohit claimed 20 wickets @ 16.30 at an economy of 6.43, the second-most in the season for CSK.
Purple Cap, World Cup and decline
Next year, he was even more potent, ending as the highest-wicket taker with 23 wickets @ 19.65. By then, he had also earned his India call-up, even though he didn’t exactly nail a spot until mid-2014.
After a bumper IPL 2014, Mohit became a regular in the one-day setup, and was smartly rotated by MS Dhoni for new-ball and death-bowling duties. “Slower ball is my strength,” he proclaimed in 2014, and developed an effective back-of-the-hand variation that saw him gain wickets in clusters. His career promised to go even further up, when he was called up to replace Ishant Sharma in the 2015 World Cup and ended up being India’s third-highest wicket-taker.
However, later that year, an injury to his left ankle while featuring in domestic cricket derailed his chances of featuring in the 2016 tour of Australia, famously remembered for witnessing the emergence of Jasprit Bumrah. From there, it went downhill for the quick, who went on to lose his chance of featuring in the T20 World Cup as well. The inclusion of younger pace options in the Indian setup further drifted him down the pecking order.
Injuries and personal setbacks
Mohit continued to be a regular presence in the IPL until 2018 while featuring for Kings XI Punjab, but the bite was distinctly missing and the season economy rates increased every year, reaching 10.85 by 2018.
Another injury, this time to his back, pushed his comeback even further in 2019, even though CSK brought him back ahead of that year’s IPL, where he played just one game. In two domestic first-class seasons from 2017 to 2019, Mohit, troubled by injury issues, picked a total of five wickets in his limited appearances.
Before featuring in IPL 2020, Mohit claimed that he hadn’t played cricket “for the last 18-20 months”, affected to a significant extent by the Covid-19 pandemic. He featured in just one game for Delhi Capitals, going for 45 runs in his four overs. Ahead of the playoffs, he left UAE for home after his father’s demise. He was released by the franchise after the 2020 season.
What’s next for him?
Mohit didn’t find any takers at his base price of INR 50 lakh in the 2021 IPL auction. He last played for India in 2015 – at 32, it’ll be a tough ask for him to forge a comeback to the national side, but the doors aren’t firmly shut. He featured for his domestic side Haryana in both the Syed Mushtaq Ali and Vijay Hazare Trophy, picking five wickets in four games, and two in six matches respectively.
After his meteoric rise, Mohit’s gradual decline in form and injury woes have combined to stall a career that promised so much more. If he manages to force his back into IPL reckoning with strong domestic performances, it’ll be quite a tale.
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