Abhishek Sharma 3.0 in IPL 2024: SRH star is devastating, aggressive and consistent | Crickit
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Abhishek Sharma 3.0 in IPL 2024: SRH star is devastating, aggressive and consistent

Apr 09, 2024 05:41 PM IST

Abhishek Sharma – in his new avatar – dashing, aggressive and consistent – could well be the biggest game-changer for SRH this season.

A 17-year old on IPL debut smashes a breathtaking 46* off just 19 deliveries for the Daredevils on a hot summer evening in Delhi in 2018. His innings is overshadowed by two all-time RCB and international greats but those who witnessed Abhishek Sharma tear into Mohammed Siraj and Tim Southee that night were left in awe of his timing and clean striking down the ground. After a few years in oblivion, Sharma is back. And with a mighty bang in IPL 2024!

Sunrisers Hyderabad's Abhishek Sharma plays a shot (ANI )
Sunrisers Hyderabad's Abhishek Sharma plays a shot (ANI )

Abhishek Sharma 1.0 – The Early Struggle

After a smashing debut, Sharma failed to live up to his billing and did not make any impact in the next three IPL editions. He scored a total of 178 runs in 17 innings at a paltry average of 13.69 at a mediocre strike rate of 127.1 between 2019-2021. He outrightly failed in 10 of these encounters and produced just one solitary high impact performance albeit in a losing cause against Mumbai Indians in Abu Dhabi. There were questions raised on his future in the IPL.

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Abhishek Sharma 2.0 – The Transformation as Opener

A couple of high impact performances in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy (SMAT) in 2021 followed by an impressive showing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy where his exploits included a smashing undefeated 169 off just 117 deliveries as opener against Services earned Sharma a second chance by the Sunrisers at the 2022 auction despite failing miserably in the last couple of seasons. However, he was no longer the enforcer in the lower-order. Instead, a new role was assigned to him at the top of the order.

The left-hander played the entire 2022 season as opener for SRH – he had previously just opened for them on two occasions - and ended with an aggregate of 426 runs with seven high impact performances – four resulting in a win for his franchise. His standout performances included 75 off 50 deliveries against CSK and 47 off 28 deliveries against RCB. Sharma repaid the faith shown by his team and ended as the leading run-getter for SRH in the edition.

Although he did not show a similar level of consistency in 2023, Sharma produced a couple of power-packed performances for SRH in the season which were an indicator of the things to come.

Abhishek Sharma 3.0 – Marrying Aggression with Consistency

Sharma had a phenomenal SMAT in 2023 hammering 485 runs in 10 innings at a sensational strike rate of 192.46. It was the second-highest scoring-rate for any batter with a minimum of 200 runs in the tournament. Sharma produced five high impact performances with the bat – significantly all as opener – which included two hundreds! Four of these came at a strike rate of above 200! Sharma blasted a stunning 112 off just 51 deliveries against Andhra as Punjab rewrote history piling on the highest team total ever (275/6) in the tournament. He played a pivotal role in taking Punjab to their maiden SMAT title.

Sharma has carried his brilliant domestic form from last year to this season in the IPL. He has smashed 161 runs in four innings at a mind-boggling strike rate of 217.56. It is the highest scoring rate for any batter with a minimum of 100 runs in the season! Sharma has eclipsed the likes of Andre Russell (212.96) and Heinrich Klaasen (203.44) who follow on the list. Sharma has hit 15 sixes in the tournament – second only to Klaasen (17). He has cleared the fence every 4.9 deliveries which is the best such frequency for any batter who has faced a minimum of 20 balls this season. Just for perspective, Sharma hit a six every 24 deliveries on an average in the last three seasons.

What makes him doubly dangerous this year is his consistency – Sharma has not failed in even one of his four outings for SRH. His highest impact performance came against Mumbai Indians, when, batting at number 3, he bludgeoned a blitzkrieg 63 off just 23 deliveries - the highlight of his knock being the seven towering sixes! It meant that SRH powered to a mammoth 277/3 – the highest team total in IPL history! Such was the impact of his devastating performance that Sharma overshadowed the likes of Travis Head (62 off 24 balls), Klaasen (80* off 34 balls) and Tim David (42 off 22 balls) in the match.

Sharma gave another Player of the Match performance, this time opening the innings for SRH. He hammered 37 off just 12 deliveries making the powerplay count even before the CSK spinners could have an impact in the 166-run chase in Hyderabad. By the time he was dismissed, in just the third over, SRH had already romped to 46 and the required run-rate was out of the equation.

While SRH have made the mistake of not opening with him in all the matches, Sharma has still blasted 91 runs off just 37 deliveries in the powerplay this season and his strike rate of 245.9 is the highest for any batter who has faced a minimum of 20 balls in the first six overs. He has even left the likes of Head (210.4) and Sunil Narine (201.6) behind. Not surprisingly, SRH have the highest run-rate of 11.7 in the powerplay in the tournament. They raced to 81/1 against MI in Hyderabad which was their highest score in the first six overs ever in the IPL! Their other powerplay totals are 78/1 against CSK also in Hyderabad, 65/1 against KKR at the Eden Gardens and 56/1 against the Titans in Ahmedabad.

Sharma has been equally severe on both pacers and spinners alike this season. While the fast bowlers have dismissed him three times in four innings, he has taken them to the cleaners, battering them for 94 runs in 45 deliveries at a rate of 208.9. Spinners have accounted for his wicket just once and been tonked for 67 off just 29 deliveries at a strike rate of 231!

SRH always had a good bowling unit. But with the exception of David Warner, they never possessed a game-changer who consistently won them matches in the top-order. However, they have completely overhauled their strategy this season and their overseas imports in Head, Klaasen, Aiden Markram and Glenn Phillips are unarguably the most destructive amongst all franchises. But leading this pack of foreign recruits is a 23-year old Indian and he is certainly making some impact at the top of the order!

Abhishek Sharma – in his new avatar – dashing, aggressive and consistent – could well be the biggest game-changer for SRH this season.

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