NEW DELHI: If a story titled “Triumph of sheer dedication over ego” were to be written, it could well be based on cricketer Mohit Sharma.
Having secured the coveted Purple Cap in IPL 2014 while playing for the Chennai Super Kings and representing India in two World Cups (2014 T20 World Cup and 2015 World Cup), Mohit demonstrated unwavering commitment by willingly embracing the role of a net bowler when circumstances didn’t align with his expectations.
He was struggling with a back injury and found himself out of an IPL contract for two years (2021 and 2022). He hasn’t played for India in eight years. He lost his father during that period as well. He was down, but not out.
Mohit, after undergoing a back surgery, was adamant of making a comeback. He sought advice from his seniors and his coach and former India cricketer Vijay Yadav, who even told him that he has the option of leaving cricket and looking for something else if he wants to. But Mohit had his own plans. He could see a ray of hope that promised him that he could get back to where he belongs.
“In 2019, when he came back after his back surgery, if it was someone else he would have quit cricket. Be it back injury, shin problems, shin fracture, stress fracture, Mohit had suffered all that and more in his career. As a coach, I admire Mohit and that is because he is very much committed to the game” Vijay Yadav, former India cricketer and Mohit’s childhood coach told TimesofIndia.com in an exclusive interview.
“When I saw Mohit struggling because of a back injury, I couldn’t control myself. I had lost hope and went to him and said – ‘yaar ab bas kar, bahut ho gaya, abb tu rehne de. Bas kar ab. Ab tu kuch aur karle’ (It’s enough Mohit. Now, leave it. Just do something else now’,” Yadav further shared.
“He told me – ‘sir, ek saal ur karunga (will do this for one more year). I think I can do it. Bas ek saal aur try karna chahta hoon (I want to keep trying to make a comeback and keep playing cricket for one more year)’, I said ok, if you want to, go ahead,” Yadav, who played 1 Test and 19 ODIs for India between 1992 and 1994, told TimesofIndia.com.
HOW MOHIT BEAT HIS OWN EGO
Mohit didn’t have an IPL contract for two years (2021 and 2022). He wanted to start afresh. Mohit was roped in as a net bowler by Gujarat Titans in 2022 and bowled under the instructions and tutelage of Ashish Nehra.
Once bought for a whopping Rs. 6.5 crore in the IPL 2016 auction by Kings XI Punjab (now Punjab Kings), Mohit worked alongside young net bowlers and had to sometimes bowl to young and experienced batters at Gujarat Titans.
“The decision was a very brave one. Last year, when he decided to be a net bowler, that decision was a huge one. A player who has played for India, represented India at the World Cup, and then becoming a net bowler – it’s not easy to do at all. One needs to be very brave to take a decision like that. There are a lot of things involved, including ego and fame. But he didn’t care. He was committed and wanted to prove to everyone again just how good he can be,” Yadav said.
TIME TO ROAR
Impressed by his pace, rhythm, and consistent lines and lengths that he showcased in the nets , Gujarat Titans gave Mohit an IPL contract. The 34-year-old was bought for Rs. 50 lakh, his base price.
Mohit did not play the first 3 matches for the defending champions this season, but when opportunity knocked on his door the experienced bowler made it count.
Playing his first match of IPL 2023 against the Punjab Kings, Mohit claimed 2 wickets, conceding just 18 runs in his 4 overs. He was awarded the Man of the Match award in his maiden IPL 2023 outing.
Mohit was at his lethal best in the match against the Lucknow Super Giants. With 12 runs needed off the last over, Hardik Pandya threw the ball to Mohit and the man from Haryana accepted the challenge.
After conceding two runs off the first delivery, Mohit dismissed KL Rahul (68) and Marcus Stonis (duck) off successive deliveries to hand GT a thrilling 7-run win. He was awarded the Player of the Match award again.
Overall, the comeback man has claimed 17 wickets in 11 matches in the IPL 2023 season so far.
“Net bowling was the only avenue left for him to try and get back to the field. He used it as a stepping stone. He really worked hard. He proved himself and impressed everyone. He used to bowl for long hours in the nets and was consistent and that’s why he was bought by the Gujarat Titans. He grabbed the chance with both hands and proved that he still has it in him. He was hungry for success. All the credit goes to him and his sheer dedication,” Mohit’s coach Yadav further told TimesofIndia.com.
“He was bought by Kings XI Punjab for 6 crores plus. He played for India. He played at the highest level. He played World Cups. A player of that stature will (usually) not go for a net bowling job, but Mohit did. Ego wise, that is not an easy decision at all. There were so many juniors who saw him play at the highest level and then he bowled to them in the GT nets. Mohit’s sheer dedication beat his ego. I am so happy for him,” the former India cricketer further said.
“Hardik is also a fighter. He also came from a humble background. He worked hard and reached this level. He also believes in hard work. I am sure he must have seen something in Mohit and must have played a big role in all this,” Yadav signed off.