It all seems surreal for Mohit Sharma. Before this edition of the T20 tournament, the 24-year-old was an unknown commodity. But after a two-month stint in the gruelling and pressure-filled T20 league, the Haryana pacer was the best uncapped player on view.
Getting an India cap wasn’t far off, not if you’d taken 20 wickets in 15 T20 matches, and played under Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
In his debut match on Thursday, Mohit, with the experience of only six domestic one-dayers, hardly showed nerves. It was his calm temperament, playing for the Chennai Super Kings, that had impressed Dhoni, and he continued to show that demeanour at the Queen Sports Club.
Plenty in armour
It helps if the opposition is a rattled Zimbabwe, but that is not to take anything away from Mohit, who ended up as man of the match. His figures of 2-26 in 10 overs were not necessarily the cynosure of India’s nine-wicket drubbing of Zimbabwe in the fourth ODI, but it sure caught the eye.
Mohit may not have the pace of Umesh Yadav or the swing of Bhuvneshwar Kumar to trouble the batsmen, but he has enough in his armoury to keep the batsmen in check. On a windy morning, Mohit’s first ball in international cricket zipped past Vusi Sibanda.
Mohit stuck to the basics and was impressive as he beat the bat on numerous occasions in his probing first spell. Soon enough, he had his first international wicket.
In his fourth over, Mohit drew Sikander Raza forward and just about clipped the edge as the ball nipped away before landing in the hands of wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik. That was the start of a familiar slide, as the hosts slumped to 47 for 5 in 15.1 overs.
Elton Chigumbura and Malcolm Waller revived Zimbabwe’s hopes with an 80-run partnership before Mohit returned to dismiss the latter. The pacer has built his reputation of bowling well in Powerplays and he again struck in that period, getting the edge of Waller.
After that, Zimbabwe folded up quickly to the leg-spin of Amit Mishra for a poor 144, leaving Chigumbura stranded at 50.
“Playing under Mahi bhai (Dhoni) and in pressure conditions has taught me a lot,” said Mohit. “I am carrying that experience into the international level. I have worked on my bowling and it is showing off,” he added.
The target was never going to test the India batsmen, especially on a good batting surface. But the focus was on Cheteshwara Pujara, who was making his long-awaited ODI debut, three years after he had played his first Test. The right-hander, however, fell for just 13, bowled by Tendai Chatara.
But Rohit Sharma 64 (90b, 5x4, 1x6) and Suresh Raina 65 (71b, 6x4) saw India through with more than 115 balls to spare. The innings was particularly important for Raina, who playing at No 3 scored his first half-century in 12 one-day innings.