ZIMBABWE V INDIA, 2ND T20I

Abhishek credits IPL for lack of nerves in debut series

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Abhishek scored his maiden T20I hundred in only his second innings
Abhishek scored his maiden T20I hundred in only his second innings © AFP

Abhishek Sharma has credited the Indian Premier League for ensuring a smooth transition for the young players who make it to the national side. Abhishek, playing just his second T20I, replicated the intent he showcased in IPL 2024 and managed to thrill the Harare crowd with a match-winning 46-ball ton. His century ensured the series was level as India thrashed Zimbabwe in the second T20I.

"I think IPL plays a big role in this because as a youngster, as a debutant, we didn't feel much pressure when we came to represent the country," Abhishek said. "It's always a great motivation once you are playing for the country. Unfortunately it didn't go well in yesterday's game, but my mindset and intent was same. I had a word with the other debutants too, we've all played cricket together a long time, since U14 days I'd say. I think it's all about approach in T20, about intent. If I show intent and if it is my day, it usually goes like this."

Abhishek, who credited former India allrounder Yuvraj Singh's contribution to his game, hit eight sixes in his whirlwind knock. "All this is due to the hard work I've done," he said. "Special thanks to my dad who always encouraged me to play lofted shots even when I was a kid. Usually coaches don't allow you to play lofted shots much. My dad used to tell me that if you want to play a lofted shot, it should go out of the ground. For me, it's always been there from my childhood that if I'm confident, I like to express myself."

The young opener revealed that he had used Shubman Gill's bat for the game, something he has regularly done in the past as well. The two players, coming from the same state, had grown up playing together right from a young age.

"The journey has been very beautiful," Abhishek looked back. "When we started playing, we were around 10-11 years and we have been playing since U12 together. The ultimate goal was to represent the country. I have said this before that the first call I got (about selection) was from Shubman, he was very happy.

"I played with his [Shubman's] bat today and it went really well, special thanks to him for the bat. This happens from the U12 days, whenever I think it's a pressure game or it's a match I should perform, I take his bat. Even in the IPL, I ask for his bat. Even today it went really well."

Abhishek admitted that the players were disappointed after losing the opening game of the series, especially given the fact that the first-choice squad had just won the T20 World Cup a few days prior to that. "Losing a game like that after the country has won a T20 World Cup was disappointing for the players," he said. "But still, we were all youngsters and have been playing together and against each other since childhood.

"So none of us went into our shells after losing, we were instead all together and thinking about the hard work we put in all those years and how this is the ultimate goal for all of us, so we should enjoy and focus on the next thing. Mindset was to forget what has happened and focus on the next match."

With the series now tied at 1-1, the third game will be played on July 10 at the same venue.

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