Sambhal: When he was 16, Mohsin Khan felt his cricketing career was over. He was nursing a bad shoulder — on account of an injury he got during training — and some very low spirits.
“Due to his shoulder injury, he was extremely despondent for 2-3 years and lamented that his career was over,” his father Multan Khan, a retired sub-inspector, said as he spoke to ThePrint at the Lucknow Super Giants left-arm pacer’s home.
The family lives on a quiet street opposite a local hospital in Sambhal, a small town in Uttar Pradesh an hour’s drive from Moradabad, where Mohsin first began training.
“We had to keep supporting him and give him solace that light comes after every period of darkness,” his father said. It was his strong support system — his family, friends and Moradabad-based long-time coach Badruddin Siddiqui — that kept him from joining the list of promising quicks who never made it big, Multan said.
Today, the world of 23-year-old Mohsin Khan looks like a different place. The left-arm pacer stormed onto the Indian Premier League stage late April, giving his team, the debutant Lucknow Super Giants, just the impetus they needed to go from an inconsistent side to title contenders.
Mohsin is not yet in the reckoning for the Purple Cap for highest wicket-taker, but, in his six matches so far, he has picked up 10 wickets at an average of 15.20, and, crucially, at a frugal economy rate of 6.08, which ranks among the best in the league this season.
This wasn’t Mohsin’s first IPL — Mumbai Indians purchased him for Rs 20 lakh in 2018, and then again in 2020. But the Lucknow franchise gave him the first chance to shine on a stage that many consider the platform for new talent.
Frugal fast bowler
Maiden overs are worth their weight in gold in cricket’s shortest format, and they seem to come naturally to Mohsin, who has regularly made life difficult for opposition batsmen with his ability to maintain disciplined lengths just outside the off-stump at uncomfortable angles, and hurry them with pace and bounce when necessary.
As such, Mohsin’s biggest contribution came on 1 May against the Delhi Capitals, when he bamboozled captain Rishabh Pant like a seasoned Test bowler and dismissed David Warner and Rovman Powell on his way to the Man of the Match award with figures of 4 for 16.
If Lucknow go on to win the IPL in their debut season, much of their success will have been down to Mohsin restricting the opposition to chaseable targets.
Tackling injuries and frustrations
While Mohsin’s father is a retired Uttar Pradesh policeman, his older brother Imran is training to follow in Multan Khan’s footsteps. Mohsin has chosen an entirely different line, and his family couldn’t have been prouder.
Mohsin participated in his maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy as well as Vijay Hazare Trophy in 2018, and made his Ranji debut (and sole appearance so far) in 2020.
While his 26 wickets in the Vijay Hazare Trophy have come at an average of 30.92 and an economy rate of 5.15, his domestic T20 (Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy + IPL) stats are far more impressive: 43 wickets at an average of 17.37 and economy rate of 6.72.
According to Multan, Mohsin first came to coach Siddiqui’s notice at age 15 and the latter quickly got the youngster drafted to the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association’s under-16 trials. Mohsin shone at the trials, taking 27 wickets across four trial matches, setting him on the path to Uttar Pradesh’s under-19 and senior sides.
But there were hurdles along the way. Such as the time when the shoulder injury threatened to derail his still-nascent cricket career. Multan said he still had a backup — completing his education at the Maharaja Agrasen Inter College Moradabad — but neither he nor his wife ever pressured him.
Meanwhile, Siddiqui’s efforts kept Mohsin’s dream alive — not only did he help him regain his bowling rhythm but he also shared his years of experience and wisdom to help guide Mohsin out of the darkness.
After his rehabilitation, Mohsin was purchased by Mumbai Indians for the 2018 and 2020 IPL seasons but true success continued to thwart him: he remained benched for both seasons, and in 2021. Here too, it was Siddiqui who helped him.
“I had to tell him ‘itni pareshaani ki kya zaroorat hai’ because he needed to understand the benefits of training in such a setup with Zaheer Khan as part of the coaching staff,” Siddiqui said. A left-arm pacer like Mohsin, Zaheer Khan joined the Mumbai Indians’ coaching side in 2018.
And sure enough, Mohsin has since put in the hard yards in domestic white-ball cricket for Uttar Pradesh, becoming a permanent fixture for UP’s Vijay Hazare and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy line-ups and developing a pace partnership with teammate Yash Dayal, who is making waves with the Gujarat Titans this year.
A helping hand
On the list of Mohsin’s supporters is Mohammed Shami — one of India’s leading fast bowlers, who helped Mohsin pick up his game.
The Covid lockdown in 2020 proved to be a boon for Mohsin: it was during this time that Siddiqui got in touch with Shami, one of his star students. The seasoned seamer was holed up at his farmhouse north of Sambhal for a few months and agreed to help Siddiqui and his star protegee.
The three would spend hours locked in together, practising and perfecting the art of bowling at Shami’s homemade pitch, Siddiqui said.
This period became crucial to Mohsin’s development as a bowler. In an interview with The Indian Express, Siddiqui said Shami considered Mohsin to be an even better bowler than himself after the time they spent together.
And although it could be too early to say if Mohsin keeps up his meteoric start to his IPL career, such praise from a seasoned stalwart could well be what helps the youngster push himself in the years to come.
(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)