Punjab Kings wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma has impressed with his batting pyrotechnics in this IPL and their batting coach Wasim Jaffer feels he’s ready to make Team India debut.
The 29-year-old Vidarbha ‘keeper-batter, who was signed up for just Rs 20 lakh in IPL 2022 auction, has grabbed the opportunity in absence of an injured Jonny Bairstow this season with some eye-catching knocks.
“Of course, last year too he had a decent performance. I think he has become even better, his batting has improved, he’s already a good wicketkeeper,” Jaffer said on the eve of their match against Kolkata Knight Riders here.
There may be an opening in Team India’s wicketkeeper’s slot for the Asia Cup and ODI World Cup with Rishabh Pant likely to miss the two marquee events slated in September and October respectively.
And, the Vidarbha cricketer has made all the right moves to grab the attention with his aggressive approach and stroke-making skills. He showed that against Mumbai Indians when he struck an unbeaten 49 off 27 balls in an entertaining partnership with Liam Livingstone.
Sharma had got a maiden national call-up earlier this year when he was picked in the India T20 squad for the series against Sri Lanka and New Zealand but didn’t get a game.
“He was included in the Indian team too but did not get an opportunity,” Jaffer said.
“I know him from Vidarbha days -- I played alongside him.” Sharma, who was promoted to No 5 against Mumbai, played a key role in getting PBKS past the 200-mark four times in a row in their last matches.
“It feels nice to see him grow so well as a batter and as a finisher, because he has batted at No 5, 6 even 7 and whatever the team has demanded he has produced results against quality bowlers and teams. I feel he’s almost ready to play for Indian team,” Jaffer said.
‘Narine, one of the best’
KKR’s ace spinner Sunil Narine may be going through a difficult season but Jaffer said Narine is one of the best bowlers in the tournament and credit should be given to him for maintaining his ‘mystery’ for so long.
“These days so much data is available, the more you play, it becomes easier and easier. There’s not much mystery left after you play two-three seasons.
“But, you got to give credit to Sunil Narine that his mystery has lasted a long time,” he said of Narine who has bagged just seven wickets from 10 matches this season.
Narine has played 12 season for KKR and was instrumental in their triumphs in 2012 and 2014. “This season has not been the best for him, but he has been a quality performer. You still got to understand he has been one of the best bowlers who has played in the IPL.” PBKS and KKR are lying on the seventh and eighth spots respectively in the 10-team standings and must win all their remaining four matches to keep their playoff hopes alive.
“We can’t think of four games at a time. The situation is obviously different in every game. We have to look to do our best in every game. We came close to winning a lot of games that we lost. It’s about taking one game at a time,” Jaffer said about their approach.
The 2023 season has witnessed most totals of 200-plus scores and Jaffer feels “it’s just about good batting conditions.” “With dew batting becoming a little easier. Also the Impact Player rule making the batters bat fearlessly,” Jaffer said.
KKR mood upbeat: Arora
Having snatched a thrilling five-run win against Sunrisers Hyderabad to keep its playoff hopes alive, the mood in the KKR camp is upbeat, feels its seamer Vaibhav Arora.
“We won the last match by a close margin, it has boosted the confidence,” Arora, who claimed 2 for 32 against SRH, said.
KKR still has to win all of its four remaining matches to remain in contention for a playoff berth.
“Rinku Bhai (against Gujarat Titans) showed that we can win from any situation. So we are not down on confidence. We’re taking one game at a time.” Senior pacer Umesh Yadav has been a big letdown for them with just one wicket to his name from eight matches.
But it does not put Arora under any extra pressure.
“I’ve no pressure. It’s an opportunity for me to prove. It’s about giving the best and prove yourself,” Arora said.
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