IPL 2023, Qualifier 2 emotional rollercoaster: Shubman Gill’s trademark slice on the legside; unflinching Saha; Mohit, the rediscovered gem and a high-on-adrenaline Tilak Varma

Mohit Sharma, the IPL fairytale

The Indian Premier League never fails to throw up fairy tales. The clear winner of this edition’s Cinderella Award is Gujarat Titan’s Mohit Sharma. At 34, the Ballabhgarh resident would have thought that his best was behind him. A World Cupper in 2015, injuries and loss of form had pushed him down the cricketing hierarchy. Till last year he was GT’s net bowler but coach Ashish Nehra – Ashu bhai for the players in North – knew that the Haryana bowler still had the spark in him. He gave him the confidence that every military-medium pacer, up against batsmen with monstrous bats need. Mohit was empowered, he wasn’t shy or scared to try out his variations. In the Eliminator, he had figures of 2.2-0-10-5, that included the full-ball that beat Suryakumar Yadav and ended MI’s hopes. Though, they say in T20 a fiver is equivalent to a ton but it was Shubhman Gill that walked away with the Man of the Match award. But for the local fans, the images they will take home will not be just Shubhman’s bow after his hundred but also Mohit’s folded hands thanks giving after his fiver. (- Sandeep Dwivedi)

Horses for courses

Gujarat Titans have used as many as 18 players this season. While teams like Chennai Super Kings, a side that they are often compared with, don’t change the XI unless forced, Gujarat have been a bit different. Employing a horses for courses policy, they have been able to ring changes without affecting the overall balance of the side. Needing a bit more strength in batting, especially after the pitch was under cover because of rain, they included Sai Sudharsan ahead of Darshan Nalkande with Josh Little starting as a substitute to come in later as an Impact Player. (- Venkata Krishna B)

Unflinching Saha

A slippery bouncer from Akash Madhwal bashed onto the visor of Wriddhiman Saha’s helmet, which kept reverberating in the impact. It was Madhwal’s effort ball that skidded on after pitching. But Saha did not flinch. He is not the most expressive of cricketers either, whether expressing pain or joy. Immediately. He flashed a casual thumb’s up at his partner Shubman Gill. Saha had a few laughs about something with Ishan Kishan, and almost shooed away the support staff rushing to perform the mandatory concussion test. Finally, he reluctantly took the test and was passed fit. And the next ball, he smoked the bowler over cover for a four. This time, he took his guard a few yards outside the off-stump and just threw his hands at a back-of-length ball that flew to the ropes. So satisfied that Saha grinned, a boyish grin. (- Sandip G)

Trademark Gill

In a season where Shubham Gill is on course to become the youngest batsman to take home the Orange Cap, he has managed to showcase his class across all conditions and bowlers. With shots all around the park, he looks all set to take over the baton, and just like the straight drive was associated with Sachin Tendulkar and cover drive with Virat Kohli, Gill is making that slice on the leg side his own. Learning the game by batting on cement tracks means, he tends to play lot of punches, but the slice on either of the wicket with minimal footwork, is so unique. The one boundary on off-side off Chris Jordan was worth all the money. (- Venkata Krishna B)

Not lazy, not lenient

Just like that Shubman Gill lost his focus. He was batting serenely, risk-free and smooth, when something suddenly snapped. He stepped out to hit Kumar Kartikeya, found himself short of the pitch but went through with the shot but could only under-edge. The ball nearly trickled onto the stumps. Ishan Kishan tumbled down and tried to run him out, but he just made the ground in time. The next ball, he unfurled a short-arm pull, which fell agonizingly short of the deep midwicket fielder. The over before, Tim David had dropped a difficult catch of his at mid-on. Maybe, fatigue was setting in, maybe he felt a little stuck. But allaying such fears, he stepped out and thumped Piyush Chawla into the sight-screen—his most violent stroke of the tournament perhaps. The next ball, he unpacked a gorgeous cover-drive that brought him two, to signal that he was in no lazy or lenient mood. (- Sandip G)

Varma stopped by master Rashid

One could say a high on adrenaline Tilak Varma could have been a little more circumspect when facing master spinner Rashid Khan. Varma going all-out during the steep chase had successfully taken apart Gujarat Titans’ gun bowler Mohammed Shami. Varma had collected 24 runs in marauding fashion, four fours in a row and a pull for a six. But Rashid has his bag of tricks. Batsmen in longer formats play him out, but Mumbai were in trouble at 21 for 2 with Cameron Green retired out. Varma perhaps wanted to hit Rashid out of the attack. Varma pulled the first delivery he faced for a four and then he and Suryakumar Yadav tapped around for singles. He eyed the big one with the slog sweep in mind, but Rashid didn’t give any room and the full-length ball crashed into the stumps. Varma with 43 off 14 looked like he would run away with the game. But even the best have rarely got away with attacking Rashid. (- Nihal Koshie)

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