IPL 2024: Relentless training, net sessions in and out of country with Yuvraj behind Abhishek's explosive form

The young SRH batter has hit 41 sixes, the most by any batter in the season, so far
Abhishek Sharma (Photo | Sri Loganathan Velmurugan)
Abhishek Sharma (Photo | Sri Loganathan Velmurugan)

"He (Abhishek Sharma) is amazing. I wouldn't want to bowl to him. It's scary as he plays with freedom, not only against pacers but also against spinners."

This quote from Sunrisers Hyderabad skipper Pat Cummins on Sunday after the win against Punjab Kings sums up Abhishek's tantalising performance in the ongoing IPL so far. The left-hander from Punjab has impressed all and sundry with his fiery batting and formed a formidable opening partnership with Aussie Travis Head for his team. Such has been his impact this season that even explosive batters from across the globe look ordinary in front of him.

It appears as if he doesn't believe in hitting fours. The 23-year-old has slammed more sixes than fours, 41 maximums so far, the most by any batter in 2024. The half-a-dozen sixes he hit against Punjab Kings on Sunday meant he also went past his illustrious compatriot Virat Kohli (37) as far as most sixes by an Indian batter in an IPL season is concerned. Among batters who have played 100 or more balls this season, Abhishek's strike rate (467 runs at 209.41 SR) is only behind James Fraser-McGurk of Delhi Capitals (330 runs at a SR of 234.04).

James Franklin, pace bowling coach of SRH, came up with an interesting statistics after Hyderabad's last league match at the home ground. "He (Abhishek) is outstanding. It's a bizarre stat as some of us saw that his six-hitting in the previous few seasons were in single digit and now it's in the high 30s. He’s totally transformed his game and really taken this IPL on. It’s been brilliant to watch,” Franklin, the former New Zealand player, said in the post-match press conference on Sunday.

One look into Abhishek's performance in the last seven seasons, and the difference is there to see. Making his IPL debut for Delhi in 2018, he hit five sixes that year. Next season, he was signed by SRH, but could send the ball over the boundary ropes only seven times in the next three years (0 in 2019, 3 in 2020 and 4 in 2021). The 2022 IPL turned out to be a breakthrough season for him as he scored 426 runs smashing 13 sixes. Next year, he scored 226 runs and managed only 6 sixes. This meant he clobbered 31 sixes in his first six IPL seasons.

Abhishek Sharma (Photo | Sri Loganathan Velmurugan)
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All that changed drastically this IPL. As of Sunday, Abhishek has 41 sixes to his name and it can well go past 50 with the SRH opener set to play at least two more games. Only Chris Gayle and Andre Russell have managed to hit 50 or more sixes in an IPL season with the former achieving the feat twice.

Abhishek's father Rajkumar Sharma, who was also his first coach, is not at all surprised by the way his son has been clobbering bowlers. "He worked 24x7 ahead of the season to get ready. It was bound to happen as it all started after the 2023 IPL season ended. He changed his routine completely. He was getting up at 4 am and used to undertake gruelling fitness sessions which included cycling, running, swimming after a brief session of meditation and yoga," Rajkumar told The New Indian Express. "He went places to get used to different conditions and train accordingly. He trained in Punjab, Noida, Mumbai, Delhi and even abroad.

The father also credited former India all-rounder Yuvraj Singh for his son's success. "Yuvi would come and take him for net sessions. The duo travelled not only in the country but London and Dubai as well to get ready for this season. Last season, even the then SRH head coach Brian Lara, the legendary West Indies player, predicted that Abhishek will take the cricketing world by storm soon."

Rajkumar, however, is disappointed that Abhishek was ignored for the upcoming T20 World Cup. But he is not heartbroken as he strongly believes that when his son's time will come; that he will mesmerise the whole world like he is doing this IPL. "We talk regularly. Recently, I asked him to score a century as the time is opportune."

Sharma senior will not be in the stands when Abhishek takes the field in the Qualifier 1 against Kolkata Knight Riders on Tuesday in Ahmedabad but he will be glued to his TV set wishing his son keeps his promise and slams his first IPL century.

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