IPL 2019: Still under 19, this Sharma can turn heads

Eighteen-year-old Abhishek Sharma, who dismissed David Warner in the practice game, could be Sunrisers Hyderabad’s trump card this season.

Abhishek Sharma (third from left) receives his jersey from Yusuf Pathan and Siddarth Kaul as David Warner looks on.   -  K.V.S Giri

One innings is enough to advertise skill sets in T20 cricket and Abhishek Sharma made full use of the limited opportunities he got in the IPL last year. Among the three matches he played, the 19-ball 46 against Royal Challengers Bangalore had the flashes of a superstar.

Fresh from the U-19 World Cup triumph, the 17-year-old Punjab southpaw had shown no mercy to the bowlers. New Zealand pacer Tim Southee would agree.

Traded to Sunrisers Hyderabad from Delhi Daredevils [now Capitals] for IPL 2019, the all-rounder has presented a strong case to be included in the playing XI as a regular. He hadn’t bowled an over last season and this time, the slow left-arm orthodox bowler cleaned up David Warner in the practice match on Wednesday.

T20 cricket never posed a threat for Abhishek as he has been honing his big-hitting skills from the U-14 days. He would often indulge in six-hitting competitions with statemate and India international Shubman Gill. “We four [including Prithvi Shaw and Manjot Kalra from the U-19 World Cup winning team] have been playing together from those days for our respective states [in age-group cricket].

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“Right from that time, we used to play more shots than others. We had competitions as to who scores more by hitting the sixes,” he told Sportstar ahead of SRH’s opening clash against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday.

Though unsure whether he will make it to the XI against KKR, the time spent with Warner, he feels, is priceless. “It was a big thing to get the wicket of Warner. He has come and spoken to me on my batting as well. I also ask him a lot of questions on the approach,” he said.

Abhishek Sharma scored a 19-ball 46 for Delhi Daredevils against Royal Challengers Bangalore in the last edition of the IPL.   -  PTI

 

Death overs challenge 

Being a lower middle-order batsman, Abhishek is preparing for situations that may test him in the IPL. “I don’t what would be my batting order. As far as I think, it would be the middle-order which is very difficult in the IPL. You could just get two or three overs or situations like a 50/4. So how to take the innings from there [is challenging],” he said.

Abhishek is currently fine-tuning his strength against fast bowlers. “Down the order, I will be mostly facing them so I wanted to learn that.”

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Not new to IPL

The youngster was part of Delhi Daredevils’ training squad in 2016. He impressed the support staff that had Rahul Dravid as mentor, who would be his U-19 coach later.

“I was just a net bowler. I went for the trials, I did pretty well in both batting and bowling. Rahul sir and all the support staff were friendly. They told me ‘you will travel with us’. They kept me,” he revealed.

Abhishek would go to every coach and player to earn experience. “I wanted to learn, I used to go to every coach and every player so that they can share their experience with me. I didn’t know whether I would get a chance to play.”

Being the son of a former cricketer Raj Kumar Sharma — who represented India in U-15, U-19 and U-22 age groups at the international level — he was exposed to videos of bowling greats such as Bishan Singh Bedi.

Abhishek has the variety to unsettle anyone; a mix of old school spin with the variations required these days — an arm ball, the top spin and the carrom ball. “I have learnt them [varieties] from watching bowlers only. I can see and learn, and bowl straight away into the match.”

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