Earlier this week, when Amritsar Under-19 team emerged as the champions in the Punjab Inter-district U-19 Cricket Tournament for Dhruv Pandove Trophy, Indian U-19 team all-rounder, 17-year-old Abhishek Sharma, shook hands with all his teammates and posed for selfies.
The Punjab all-rounder, who played a vital role in India’s U-19 title triumph in the ICC U-19 World Cup in New Zealand in February, with six wickets and an economy of 3.91 apart from a crucial 50 against Bangladesh in quarter final, also made his IPL debut in May and is aiming to make a smooth transition to the seniors.
“It is like starting a new journey. I have played most of my cricket at national and international level at the U-16 and U-19 level, and now the focus will be on making it to the senior teams. Winning the U-19 World Cup was like a dream for all of us. I made my debut for Punjab in Ranji Trophy against Himachal Pradesh last year, where I scored 94 runs apart from a fifty in the tournament and senior players like Yuvraj Singh and Harbhajan Singh motivated me. I missed out on a century in Ranji Trophy last year but now I will make sure that I start this season strongly and do well for the team” shared Sharma, while talking with Chandigarh Newsline.
Son of former cricketer Raj Kumar Sharma, who represented India in U-15, U-19 and U-22 age groups at the international level, Abhishek was the highest scorer and highest wicket-taker in the BCCI U-16 Vijay Merchant trophy in 2015-2016, where he scored more than 1200 runs with an average of 109.9, apart from taking 57 wickets.
The youngster also smashed a century for Punjab on his U-19 debut in Vinoo Mankad trophy before captaining India’s U-16 team to a title win in the U-19 Asia Cup. He was bought by Delhi Daredevils for Rs 55 lakh this year and smashed a whirlwind knock of 46 runs against Royal Challengers Bengaluru in his debut match. He counts his IPL experience as an enriching one.
“Even though I had to wait to get my chance in IPL, it was a learning experience for me playing for Delhi Daredevils. My focus was to play positively and play my shots even if I get dismissed on the first ball. Our coach Ricky Ponting too told us the same and to spend time with a player like him is a big thing for a youngster like me. The first innings against Royal Challengers Bengaluru was a special one and it gave me confidence. Our captain Shreyas Iyer too talked with U-19 players and he understood our game better. Playing in three matches did not give me much opportunity with the ball but I hope next year, I can excel with the ball too” shared the left-handed batsman who also bowls left-arm spin.
The youngster missed a chance to be a part of the India A team, which will tour England later this month for a One Day tri-series and a four-match series. The left-arm spinner will be spending some time under his father and coach Raj Kumar Sharma before the Ranji Trophy and other domestic tournaments.
“I was a bit disappointed on missing the India A team squad. It means that I have to double down on whatever I was doing earlier to achieve the dream of playing for the Indian senior team. My father, who was also a national-level spinner, still coaches me apart from Punjab bowling coach Harwinder Singh and fielding coach Sandeep Sawal.
When I was a junior cricketer, my father used me to show videos of Bishen Singh Bedi sir and Maninder Singh sir. It also helped me to improve my bowling. Apart from this, I still talk with Rahul Dravid sir, who was coach of U-19 team for World Cup and he always tells me to spend more time at the crease” concluded Sharma.