Daniel Vettori sees shades of Chris Gayle in Abhishek Sharma’s takedown of Rashid Khan

Abhishek Sharma came into the game against Gujarat Titans as the third-highest run-scorer (138) in the powerplay in IPL 2022. But couple that with his strike rate in that phase (120) and you get a clearer picture. He’s just managing not to get out early. He needed to do more.
Earlier this season, Sunrisers Hyderabad head coach Tom Moody insisted that people were being too quick to judge the 21-year-old opener; that he would go on to play several match-winning knocks for his team. Nobody expected him to take down Rashid Khan though. During his 42-ball 65, Abhishek pulverised one of the leading legspinners in the world for 34 runs off 15 balls, including three huge sixes and a sparkling four over covers after picking his googly.
“There was a calmness to the way he played,” Daniel Vettori said on ESPNcricinfo’s T20 Time Out. “And it felt like he picked up the length. You talk about the great players and their ability to pick up the length, and as soon as Rashid Khan got slightly full, he latched onto it. I think he hit him for three sixes, and they all were just from the case of extending out his front foot and getting to the pitch of the ball. I think Chris Gayle or Suresh Raina have had similar sort of results against him and not many others, and it was through that style of being able to reach the ball.

“But there’s more to it than just that slight overpitch, because he has overpitched to other batsmen and they haven’t been able to get on to it. I just thought it was how stable he was, and the fact that whenever he missed, Abhishek Sharma was there to capitalise on it, and when he got a little bit short, he punched him over cover, but he also never missed an opportunity to take a single.”

Did being team-mates help Abhishek understand the Rashid threat better? They played together for three seasons (2019-2021) at Sunrisers. Maybe, Chris Lynn said, and then laid out the blueprint for tackling the Afghanistan ace.

“Well, I think, generally when you come up against someone like Rashid Khan, you try and just keep him out of the game, and I think when he hasn’t taken a wicket in his first two overs, you’ve got the luxury of going a bit harder, and you’ve got a platform,” Lynn said. “The moment he takes a wicket in his first two overs, […] obviously he’s a lot more dangerous, his field settings change, and your mindset changes. So you look at your none for 35, your none for 30, and that’s a win.”

Vettori also weighed in. “You hear batters talk all the time, ‘I can’t pick that guy and another guy can pick him’, and you just don’t understand why that’s the case, because they’re both very similar batters, but their comfort level with facing someone like that [is different]. Whether Abhishek Sharma got it from the nets, the experiences maybe through conversations, maybe Rashid Khan was Abhishek Sharma’s confidante, and they exchanged notes, and they got to the point where Abhishek felt comfortable, but it was just a brilliant innings.”

“He’s young, he’s fearless, he’s got no fear of failure,” Lynn said. “And there’re some guys in the change room, the more you talk to them about how the bowler’s trying to get you out, it’s worse for them, so it’ll be interesting to understand Sharma’s thought process and preparation leading up to a special innings like this.

“I’ve played with plenty of guys at the other end, and you say, did you pick that ball, and they’ve got no idea, they’re just playing off instinct and hit through, or premeditate, which is okay by my books, but again that fear of failure is not there with them. They just play it how they see it, and don’t even worry about the placement of the ball. All they worry about is hitting it out the middle of the bat because they know they’re strong enough to clear the fence.”

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