Chennai Super Kings' Mohit Sharma finds himself attached to a baffling statistic related to the Indian Premier League. In the 31 matches that he has played in the tournament over the last two seasons, he has only scored a single run.
For that matter, in his eight-match international career for India (five ODIs and three T20Is), he is yet to open his runs account. The postscript to these two bits of statistics is that he has faced a grand total of 13 deliveries in his international and IPL career.
Fortunately for the 25-year-old Indian medium-paced bowler, there are other numbers that he is better known for, and they do not involve holding a bat.
Sharma ended the 2014 IPL as the season's highest wicket taker, with 23 victims in 16 matches and a best of four for 14. Fifteen of those 23 wickets were taken in the month of May, making him an automatic pick for the bowler of the month.
Sharma kept up with the tradition of quick bowlers winning the Purple Cap in the IPL. Only in 2010 did a spinner, Pragyan Ojha, take the highest number of wickets in a season. Sharma joined a list that includes Sohail Tanvir (2008), RP Singh (2009), Ojha (2010), Lasith Malinga (2011), Morne Morkel (2012) and Dwayne Bravo (2013).
Sharma isn't the quickest of bowlers in the world by a long way. He manages to clock himself in the 130s but makes up for his lack of pace with a smooth delivery stride, unflinching line and length in the channel just outside off-stump from a decent height (5'11"), and a good outswinger to the right-handed batsman. He also has an unflappable slower one, which he admittedly uses a lot, according to this interview for the IPL's official website:
I use the slower one according to the batsman. There is also a knack of bowling that slower one and using it according to the situation. When the batsman is on a roll and trying to hit you outside the off-stump, you need to bowl the slower one at a proper line and length that could make it difficult for the batsman to connect. Dhoni bhai makes me understand all these things, like which batsman is moving which way and how I have to bowl my deliveries, which is of great help.
Sharma is the man captain MS Dhoni goes to both in the power play and the death overs. There are times when he can go for a few runs, but his ability to maintain his cool is what sets him apart. During a game against Rajasthan Royals this season, Sharma erred and bowled a slow full toss to Shane Watson, who clobbered it for six over midwicket. Any bowler would have lost his composure, but Sharma went back and bowled a superb slower one that crashed into middle stump the very next ball.
Sharma's name first did the rounds in the Indian cricketing scene during the 2012-13 Ranji Trophy season, when he ended up as the sixth-highest wicket taker with 37 scalps in eight matches. The performance was good enough for him to be picked by Chennai Super Kings in the auction for the 2013 IPL.
Sharma made the CSK starting XI regularly all season and, soon, everyone knew his name as he went on to take 20 wickets in 15 games. He was to be rewarded with a call-up to the national squad during the one-day tour of Zimbabwe last year.
His international career has been restricted to eight limited-overs games, but from his performance in IPL 2014 he has proved that he isn't a one-time wonder. Sharma has been picked for India's tour of Bangladesh starting later this month and has the opportunity to knock on the selectors' door a little louder in order to be in contention for bigger series.