Young opener Vivrant Sharma continued his productive white-ball season on Wednesday at Wankhede Stadium, with his maiden List A century taking Jammu & Kashmir to the Vijay Hazare Trophy knockouts for the first time. The 23-year old Vivrant – among several J&K players who have caught the eye of IPL franchise scouts ahead of the auction with their big hits – stroked an unbeaten 154 off 124 deliveries, including 18 fours and six sixes, as J&K defeated Uttarakhand by nine wickets.
With their fifth win in six games, J&K finished second in Group D behind Punjab, and will fly to Ahmedabad for the pre-quarterfinals. J&K’s has been a remarkable story. They still don’t have their own ground. For the first time, the players played league cricket in the valley. The state association is run by an ad-hoc body and recently the BCCI appointed its treasurer Ashish Shelar as an observer for J&K. Despite all obstacles, the team has managed to beat some big teams in the Vijay Hazare Trophy, including a successful chase of 343 against Ranji champions Madhya Pradesh.
Vivrant, who made his senior debut two seasons ago after coming up through the age-group ranks, said it has been a great achievement for his side, especially after a disappointing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. J&K had lost six of their seven games in the SMAT.
“It is a great feeling to enter the knockouts for the first time in our history of cricket. We have earlier played the knockouts in the Ranji Trophy but this will be the first time we will be playing knockouts in the 50-over format.
“In the first game, we chased 350-odd against Madhya Pradesh and we carried on from there. The feeling is yet to sink in but we have a long way to go and are taking things game by game,” Vivrant said.
Vivrant took up the game as his elder brother Vikrant used to play club cricket in Jammu. He would bat right-handed when he was 12 but after seeing his elder brother, who batted left-handed, Vivrant decided to become a southpaw.
He made the Uttarakhand bowlers toil throughout the chase of 252. On 90, he had to go back to the dressing room as he suffered a cramp, but returned after fellow opener Shubham Khajuria was run out on 71. Vivrant slammed a six and a four to complete his century, and stayed in the middle right till the end. “Once I scored a hundred I said let’s finish it off. I kept hitting and the runs kept coming,” Vivrant said with a smile.