Mohit Sharma debuts in style in fourth ODI against Zimbabwe

Mohit Sharma, who has played no more than 11 First-Class matches, seven domestic one-dayers and a full season for Chennai Super Kings, bowled a brilliant opening spell of 6-2-13-1 against Zimbabwe in the 4th ODI on Thursday © IANS

By Derek Abraham

Selectors are not statisticians. They don’t go by numbers; they go by instinct.

The year was 2007 and Ashwini Kumar came across a lad during the Haryana Under-19 selection trials. The boy didn’t have a great age-group record, but he did have a reputation. Kumar, then the chief selector of the junior selection panel, went by gut feel and picked him. If Kumar deserves credit for spotting the prodigiously talented medium-pace bowler, then you’ve got to give it to Vijay Yadav, the former India wicketkeeper, for nurturing him since he was 12. On Thursday, more than six years later, Mohit Sharma’s gurus felt triumphantly vindicated. After all, their ward became only the second Indian player ever to pocket the Man of the Match award on One-Day International (ODI) debut. Sandeep Patil had done the same in 1980.

For the record, Mohit returned figures of 10-3-26-2 as India cruised to yet another victory over Zimbabwe — this time in the in the fourth ODI at Bulawayo. Mohit bowled three spells in all, bowling a tight line in each of them to hasten the end of Zimbabwe’s innings for just 144.

The Haryana bowler, who has played no more than 11 First-Class matches, seven domestic one-dayers and a full season for Chennai Super Kings, bowled a brilliant opening spell of 6-2-13-1. Sikandar Raza was his first victim, the opener edging one to wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik.

Kohli reintroduced him in the middle overs. Mohit stuck to the basics, swinging the ball to good effect and bowling the occasional bouncer. He failed to get a wicket, though. Six overs later, Mohit returned to dismiss Malcolm Waller, also caught behind, to reduce the hosts to 127 for six. Waller and Elton Chigumbara had staged a recovery act by lifting their side from 47 for five.

“After the third ODI, Mohit rang me up. He sounded worried and nervous. ‘Sir, three matches gone and I haven’t played yet’,” childhood coach Yadav says. “I told him to be patient. And he said he was itching to do well if given a chance. I am glad he bowled well on debut.”

Kumar, who is now the coach of Haryana’s Ranji Trophy side, has watched Sharma go from strength to strength. “Before the IPL, Mohit was relatively unknown, but don’t forget he was one of the most consistent bowlers in the last Ranji season. In fact, he finished as the fifth-highest wicket-taker with 37 scalps in just eight matches,” says Kumar.

Yadav recalls  the days when Mohit was laid low with a serious back injury. “He was barely 19, but I remember the hard work he put in then. Many thought he would not play again. He was bed-ridden for months together. But he fought his way back,” Yadav says.

Kumar offers a sneak peek into Sharma’s personality. “He comes across as a shy fellow, but he is a great dancer and singer. Our off-season camps are real fun. He is also good at giving pep talks,” he says.

(The writer is Principal Correspondent at DNA, where the above article first appeared)