With Yuvraj Singh as mentor and Brian Lara as guide, SRH’s Abhishek Sharma hopes to realise his potential | Ipl News


In a Sunrisers Hyderabad batting line up comprising bonafide stars — Travis Head, Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen — 23-year-old Abhishek Sharma didn’t look out of place on Wednesday night. Sharma’s 63 off just 23 deliveries against Mumbai Indians made head turn as the team posted the highest-ever total in the IPL. Travis Head, the swashbuckling Australian opener had recorded the fastest fifty for an SRH batter in 18 balls before Sharma almost immediately rewrote the mark in 16. A knock that caught the attention of Yuvraj Singh, his mentor.

Yuvraj was quick to post on X what he thought of Sharma’s dismissal — caught at deep-midwicket off leg-spinner Piyush Chawla.

“Waah sir Abhishek waah, great innings but what a splendid shot to get out on! Laaton ke bhoot baaton se nahi maante! Special slippers waiting for you now,” Yuvraj wrote on X.

Abhishek’s father Rajkumar was at the stadium in Uppal. He has seen Yuvraj’s post. “Bas thoda consistent ho jaaye (He needs to be more consistent). He has evolved a lot in the last two years but he needs to value his wicket a bit more,” Sharma Sr, a former Punjab Under-19 and Under-22 cricketer, said.

Rajkumar credits Yuvraj and West Indian great Brian Lara, who continuously talks to his son over the phone, for helping Abhishek improve his game.

“Yuvraj has worked a lot on him. Yuvraj asks Abhishek to get on a plane and bring his cricket kitbag along… be it Mumbai, Dubai, Delhi or Chandigarh. Yuvraj makes sure Abhishek works hard in the off-season. We are grateful that a cricketer of Yuvraj’s stature is his mentor,” Rajkumar said.

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Yuvraj’s sound advice

Yuvraj also made a key intervention in Abhishek’s career. Two years ago the Amritsar lad decided to stop bowling left-arm spin. “Yuvraj told him to keep bowling as it adds extra value. I have seen the changes in him in the last three years. He gets up at 4 am, starts his day with meditation and follows it with gym, swimming, and running. I was a bit surprised to see him working so hard,” Rajkumar added.

Abhishek’s breakthrough year in the IPL was 2022, when he scored 426 runs as an opener for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. In IPL 2023, he was moved to the middle order, and the runs dried up. He got back among the runs in the Syed Mushtaq Ali (2023-24), where he scored 485 runs at a strike rate of 192.46, which played a pivotal role in Punjab lifting the trophy.

“I believe I am very flexible, I can bat at any position. Mai kaise contribute kar sakta hun, woh mere dimaag mein rehta hai (How can I contribute to my team this is what I always think about). But somehow, I always felt like that if I get the opportunity to bat in the top order, I can be more dangerous,” Abhishek had told this newspaper before the start of the tournament.

In the current Indian setup, the likes of his childhood friend Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikawad, Yashasvi Jaiswal, and Prithvi Shaw are jostling for a spot in India’s top-order batter. When asked about the competition, Abhishek had a cheeky reply: “All those names, you have taken, I am a better bowler than all of them. None of them bowl. I have got an edge over them. Yes, there is competition but I want to be a match-winner in both departments.”

Abhishek agrees that he needs to be consistent. “This is the area where I am lacking the most. Yuvi paaji has told me last year that I must take every match as a new match,” Abhishek said.

Apart from seeing his son doing well, Rajkumar was thrilled to meet Sachin Tendulkar on the eve of the SRH vs MI game.

“I reminded him about when I first met him. It was in 1986, I was playing for North Zone U-22 in Mumbai and in the next ground Sachin was playing a U-16 match. We had heard so much about him, and luckily our match ended early and our entire team just went there to get a glimpse of Sachin,” says Sharma.

Abhishek Abhishek Sharma and his father Rajkumar Sharma with Mumbai Indians captain Hardik Pandya. (Special Arrangement)

“I got very emotional when he said ‘Paaji aapka ladka kaafi acha cricketer hai (Your son is a very good cricketer). Jab bhagwaan keh rahe hai toh koi baat hogi (When the god of cricket is saying, then there must be something about him). Those 15 minutes I spent with were gold,” Rajkumar said.

Praise from Tendulkar, mentorship by Yuvraj and a sounding board in West Indian great Brian Lara — Abhishek is in touch with the right people.

“He is also very close to Brian Lara. He keeps on talking to him. Kal bhi match ke baad phone aaya tha (He called him after the match to congratulate him). He has told me several times that it is just a matter of time before Abhishek will play for India.”

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