The Numbers Behind Mohsin Khan’s Breakout Season
It’s the Delhi Capitals against the Lucknow Super Giants. DC require 83 runs off 48 balls to chase down LSG’s target of 196. It’s not an easy task, but also firmly within the realm of possibility when they have Rishabh Pant and Rovman Powell well set in the middle. Mohsin Khan steps up to bowl the 13th over.
With Pant on strike, Mohsin bowls a back-of-the-length ball outside the off stump. Pant charges down the pitch, swings, and misses. Dot ball.
Next, Mohsin bowls another back-of-the-length, outside-off-stump ball, but this time slower and far too wide of the off stump. Wide.
Then, Mohsin bowls a fuller ball outside the off stump that Pant drives to backward point. Dot ball. The pressure mounts.
Next, Mohsin bowls a short ball that Pant pulls to deep fine leg for a single, putting Powell on strike. Another short ball follows, but this one is wider and Powell pulls it through midwicket for four. Then, Mohsin bowls a faster, fuller ball outside off stump that Powell gets a top edge on, falling just short of third man. Single.
This puts Pant back on strike for the final ball of the over. And this is where Mohsin decides to bowl his variation delivery. He bowls it quick, full, and into the leg stump. It passes through Pant’s attempted flick and rattles the stumps. Out. LSG are on their way to victory at the Wankhede.
Mohsin ends the innings with four wickets – big ones too, getting David Warner, Pant, Powell, and Shardul Thakur out – for just 16 runs, winning Player of the Match.
Not only is this set-up and wicket an example of one of Mohsin’s many match-winning overs, but it also exemplifies his modus operandi: bowling fast, back-of-a-length or shorter balls that hit the deck, but with a deadly potential for variation.
Very few people could’ve seen this happening a few months ago. After three seasons with the Mumbai Indians on the bench, the 23-year-old left-arm pacer from Uttar Pradesh was picked up in the auction by IPL newcomers LSG for just ₹20 lakhs.
Even during the 2022 IPL season, it took time for him to truly gain a foothold in the LSG XI. He made his debut against the Gujarat Titans in March, conceding 18 runs in his two overs. Then, his breakthrough came against his old team, the Mumbai Indians, in late April, where he replaced an injured Avesh Khan and conceded just 27 runs in his four overs while dismissing Dewald Brevis.
Next came an impressive four-game run: 3-24 against the Punjab Kings, the 4-16 against DC that we discussed earlier, a 1-6 (in three overs) against the Kolkata Knight Riders, and a 1-18 against the Gujarat Titans. Mohsin was a major part of LSG’s five-game winning streak, and helped them ensure a finish in the top four in the business end of the IPL. He ended the league fixtures with 4-20 against a KKR side that scored 208 runs, and finished the season with a 1-25 in their elimination against RCB.
After his nine games in the 2022 IPL season, he’s already in the running for India’s T20 squads, competing with India’s many upcoming talented pace bowlers. Let’s dig a little deeper into what makes Mohsin Khan special.
First off, Mohsin concedes very few runs. He had the second-lowest economy in the IPL in 2022 with 5.94, just above Sunil Narine. What’s more, not only is Mohsin economical, but the number of dot balls he bowls creates pressure and increases his chances of getting wickets. He had the highest dot ball percentage in the league with a whopping 54%.
And that brings us to how dangerous a bowler Mohsin is. He had the eighth-highest strike rate in the IPL this year at 14.1, with just over 7% of his balls getting the batter out. He also ended the season with the best bowling average in the league, conceding just 14 runs for every wicket taken. The following scatter plot puts into perspective just how good a season he had compared to other bowlers in the IPL in 2022.
Let’s break his stats down by phases. Looking at powerplay figures alone, Mohsin stands out. He had the best economy in the powerplay overs with just 5.2 runs conceded per over, and took wickets with 6.3% of his balls, the fifth-best wicket rate in the league.
His numbers in the death overs are less impressive but still very good. His wicket rate in the death overs is an above-average 8.3%, while his economy is a healthy 8.0 runs per over, the 9th-best in the league.
Now, let’s go beyond the simpler stats and look at the features of his bowling. Mohsin’s fairly tall and bowls with a tall, straight arm, giving him a high release point, as you can see below. He hits the deck hard and gets a lot of bounce from the pitch.
The most noticeable feature of Mohsin’s bowling is the lengths he bowls at. No bowler in the IPL in 2022 bowled a higher percentage of balls back of a length or shorter than Mohsin’s 55.1%. With his bounce, most of his deliveries reach a length that is uncomfortable for batters to hit boundaries off, with his balls often ending up speared in towards batters’ ribs. His balls are often too short to slog, but also too full to pull or hook. It prompts many batters to step out of their crease to face his back-of-a-length deliveries.
Similarly, he doesn’t bowl many easier-to-slog half-volleys or length deliveries. Only 3% (the 11th-lowest in the league) of his balls are half-volleys, and only 40.9% of his balls are length balls (the 14th-lowest in the league). The chart below gives us a detailed look at what lengths he bowls at relative to other bowlers in IPL 2022.
Next, let’s look at his line. First off, as you’d expect, Mohsin tends to bowl with the seam pointing to the off-side, getting his balls to seam away from the right-hander. Judging from the eye test, the magnitude of movement he gets from seam is notable, making him dangerous with the new ball and difficult to score boundaries off throughout the innings.
But one interesting thing about the line he bowls is that he has a much bigger leg-stump emphasis than you’d expect for a left-arm seamer. 18.2% of his balls are delivered on a leg-stump line, the third-highest in the league, while 26.8% of his balls go down the leg side of the batter, the fifth-highest rate in the league. Conversely, a relatively low proportion of his deliveries are bowled at the off-stump or outside off, as the chart below shows.
Now, onto how batters play Mohsin’s deliveries. An upshot of his consistently-excellent line, length, seam, and variation is that batters don’t connect with his deliveries well. 19.7% of his balls are played and missed, the third-highest in the league, while 43.4% of his balls induce a false shot from the batsmen, the fourth-highest figure from the past season. On the whole, just 55.1% of his balls are played with what we code as ‘good connection’. Only Khaleel Ahmed, Umran Malik and Kuldeep Sen boast lower rates than that.
In general, Mohsin is just very, very difficult to hit.
It’s also interesting to look at where his boundaries go when the batter does connect with Mohsin’s deliveries. As a function of his pace and length, batters tend to score a large proportion of their runs against him behind or square of the wicket, with 41.8%.
In summary, in addition to his clear wicket-taking ability and restricting the opposition’s total, Mohsin has a fairly unique distribution of lines and lengths, usually bowling back-of-a-length or shorter, and usually getting his deliveries to move into the leg stump.
Mohsin is one of India’s many talented new young fast bowlers who can consistently bowl in the late 140ks and faster. He may not be the biggest stand-out stylistically among his peers, without the same pace, swing, or yorkers a couple of others can pull off on a consistent basis. But at the same time, among his peers, Mohsin is arguably the one who looks the most polished for now. Very few pacers in the IPL of any age cohort can match his precision in length, seam, and variations. Very few quicks in the IPL can generate the same success in the powerplay overs as consistently, while also being fairly lethal and economical in the death. And very few IPL rookies have immediately proven themselves to be an excellent double threat, both taking wickets at a high rate and significantly slowing the opposition’s scoring rate like Mohsin has.
All in all, there’s plenty of evidence to show that we’ll be hearing Mohsin Khan’s high-pitched celebratory squeals for a long time, for both franchise and country.
Graphic design by Briggs Clinard.
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