Not just a slogger: Big-hitting Ashutosh Sharma rides the IPL wave | Crickit
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Not just a slogger: Big-hitting Ashutosh Sharma rides the IPL wave

Apr 19, 2024 09:55 PM IST

In four matches, the PBKS batter has smashed 156 runs at a strike-rate of 205

Amay Khurasiya, the former India allrounder and now Level-III BCCI qualified coach, has had a hard time keeping his mind on his day job. Apart from training young cricketers at his cricket academy at Jabalpur, he kept one eye on his ward Ashutosh Sharma's performances closely in IPL 2024. The 25-year-old batter has been in top form in his debut IPL season while playing for Punjab Kings (PBKS).

Punjab Kings batter Ashutosh Sharma plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 cricket match between Punjab Kings (PBKS) and Mumbai Indians (MI)(PTI)
Punjab Kings batter Ashutosh Sharma plays a shot during the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2024 cricket match between Punjab Kings (PBKS) and Mumbai Indians (MI)(PTI)

And when Khurasiya gets too caught up with work to watch the IPL games, the trainees at the AKC Academy in Indore keep him in the loop. Such has been the impact of Sharma that he has got people talking about him.

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"Ashu is a brilliant contemporary cricketer who is very fearless in his approach," said Khurasiya, who first started training Sharma when he was a 12-year-old. "It doesn't affect him much who the bowler is, he just goes his strokes and always aims for his team's win. That's how he has been trained in the last couple of years. IPL in the past has given Indian team tremendous cricketers and I believe Ashutosh also has it in him to reach at the top. The national selectors should keep an eye on him and give him chances so that he can continue to develop."

Sharma, who bats in the middle order for Railways, had first hit the headlines after breaking former India batter Yuvraj Singh's 16-year-old record for the fastest fifty when he got to the mark in just 11 balls in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 tournament during a Group C clash against Arunachal Pradesh.

And on Thursday night, he hammered seven sixes and two fours to make 61 off just 28 balls, a knock which brought PBKS back from the brink after an early collapse and almost took them to victory against Mumbai Indians (MI) at Mullanpur.

"It is a part of the game. Sometimes, the opener scores runs, and sometimes the middle order does. This keeps happening. It is a team game. We all have to do well. We have to focus on our process and not on winning and losing. If the process is correct, we will keep going in the right direction," said Sharma after the game.

"The franchise has given me lots of confidence to be able to express myself on the field. It has helped," added Sharma, who made his T20 debut playing for Madhya Pradesh in 2018 and last played in Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy for Madhya Pradesh in 2019.

However, when former cricketer Chandrakant Pandit became Madhya Pradesh coach in 2020, Sharma was sidelined and dropped and the coming three seasons were spent in agony.

He later joined Railways and in the first season with the senior Railways team, Sharma made his presence felt.

It was Sharma's first fifty in the IPL on Thursday, and he celebrated it with a gesture to the dressing room. On being asked about his celebrations, he said that he wanted to express his gratitude to the PBKS head of cricket development Sanjay Bangar, and the rest of the team management for showcasing faith in him. He also talked about Khurasiya's contribution in shaping up his game.

"The celebrations were for Sanjay Bangar Sir. I am working a lot under him and he keeps guiding me. He has given me a chance. Not to forget how I have trained under Khurasiya sir in recent times," said Sharma who is on a roll for PBKS in IPL 2024 despite the team not doing well in regard to winning.

"Sanjay Sir has taught me that I am not a slogger and that I play cricketing shots and I need to focus on that. This small statement has become a big one for me. I am following the same and that is changing my game. I play proper shots. Back home with Khurasiya Sir he has told me to stay at the pitch for most of the innings for good results," he added.

Sharma impressed the most when in the 13th over of Punjab's chase when he got down low to convert an attempted yorker from Jasprit Bumrah into a full toss and smack it for a six over backward square leg.

"Mujhe belief tha ki main toh kardoonga (I had a belief that I could win the game for my team). It was my dream to hit a sweep shot against Bumrah. I was practising for that shot but it came against the best bowler in the world," added Sharma.

PBKS take on Gujarat Titans in their last home match in Mullanpur Sunday. In their last contest, PBKS had beaten GT and Sharma and Shashank Singh had played a huge role in that Punjab win.

With just two victories out of seven outings, PBKS might have struggled to find their feet in the competition, but Sharma sure has used his opportunities well.

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