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Jitesh Sharma Completes One Redemption Arc, Embarks on Another

Jitesh Sharma has completed one redemption arc in the red of PBKS. Now, he is aiming to do the same blue of India.

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Why are so many people outside our house?” Ashima Sharma enquires, unaware of her son’s soaring popularity.

They’re here to meet me. Main abhi TV pe aata hu, maa (I appear on TV nowadays, mother),” the son replied, in his earnest attempt to furnish the simplest explanation possible. Unfortunately, the effort is lost on his oblivious mother.

A mob had gathered outside the Amravati residence, with no one deserving blame for their presence. The bustling crowd had only one thing on their agenda – to meet the city's latest superstar, Jitesh Sharma.
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In Amravati, it is now public knowledge that Jitesh, having scored 309 runs and played some exemplary knocks in Indian Premier League (IPL) 2023, could soon don the precious blue.

In the Sharma household, however, staying grounded is the most essential ground rule, with discipline being the unconditionally followed doctrine. Where does it stem from? The roots.

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A Chance Encounter That Proved Life-Changing

In an exclusive conversation with The Quint, Jitesh says “My grandfather was a part of Subhas Chandra Bose’s famous Indian National Army, and my father used to narrate his tales of valour when I was a kid. Since then, my aim was to join the Army and serve our nation.”

That, academics and sporting ambitions being at crossroads, is a par for the course subplot in many Indian athletes’ life. For Jitesh, as destiny would have it, academics turned out to be the major reason why he picked up the sport.

In Maharashtra, there’s a rule that if you play any sport at the state level, you will get 25 additional marks. Frankly speaking, I belonged to the backbenchers' group, and would take happily everything that was coming my way for free. One day, a friend informed that the school cricket team is conducting trials, and it could be a great opportunity to get those extra marks. When we went there, we were told that they were looking for wicketkeepers. Funnily enough, every single one of us backbenchers said we were wicketkeepers, despite none having any experience of it. Fortunately, my performance was the best of the bunch, and I made it to the team.
Jitesh Sharma
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The Ruminating Stint With Mumbai Indians

The chance encounter proved life-changing, and since then, Jitesh has not had to look back. He made his T20 debut for Vidarbha in 2014, scoring a half-century against a formidable Uttar Pradesh side, featuring the likes of Piyush Chawla, Amit Mishra and RP Singh. Two years later, he would find himself sharing the dressing room with Rohit Sharma and Kieron Pollard, having earned an IPL contract with Mumbai Indians.

“The stint with Mumbai Indians was about self-realisation, more than anything else. It helped me understand my game better, and showed me what my strengths are and which areas needed to be worked upon. The best part about those two years was the team environment – MI’s management gives equal attention to every player, irrespective of his age and experience,” he informs us.

Jitesh Sharma has completed one redemption arc in the red of PBKS. Now, he is aiming to do the same blue of India.

Jitesh Sharma's IPL career started at Mumbai Indians.

(Photo: Instagram/jiteshsharma_)

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Albeit being among icons was an excellent achievement, Jitesh did not get a single chance to showcase his talent. In retrospect, does he feel hard done by?

“It was clearly clarified that I was not playing because Parthiv Patel, Jos Buttler and Nicholas Pooran were all fighting for the same position. Parthiv bhai and Jos were doing a fabulous job, and with a player of Pooran’s ability not getting a chance, I understood why I had to sit out. I was completely fine with it,” he replies.
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How Anil Kumble Revived Jitesh’s Career

Not playing any matches for the five-time IPL champions mightn’t have bothered Jitesh one bit, but his world came down crashing, and unceremoniously so, when he was informed that his place in Vidarbha’s Ranji Trophy squad doesn’t exist anymore.

That was a very difficult phase. For two whole months since the news arrived, I was a complete wreck, failing to swallow defeat. Then, I had a conversation with myself and decided to turn the bad situation into something productive, by working on my drawbacks instead of harping on the same issue over and over again.
Jitesh Sharma
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Jitesh Sharma has completed one redemption arc in the red of PBKS. Now, he is aiming to do the same blue of India.

How Anil Kumble helped Jitesh make a comeback.

(Photo: The Quint)

The plan paid dividends. He would end up as Vidarbha’s leading run-scorer in both Vijay Hazare Trophy and Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in the subsequent season, and soon, would find another IPL contract – except this time, he would not simply fill up numbers but make it big, courtesy of Anil Kumble.

“I will always be grateful to Anil sir. I gave trials in almost every IPL franchise, and did well in all of those, but Anil sir was the only person to recognise my talent and give me an opportunity by getting me into Punjab Kings. Beyond cricket, he also helped me with personal problems. My only goal in the 2022 season was to not let Anil sir down, because when no one was interested in giving me a chance, he stood beside me like a rock,” the batter explains, offering gratitude to his former coach at Punjab Kings.

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And Others, Who Offered a Helping Hand

Barring Kumble, Jitesh says he wouldn’t have been the player he is today, had it not been for two other individuals – Wasim Jaffer, whom he has worked with both in Vidarbha and Punjab Kings, and his charismatic skipper, Shikhar Dhawan.

Jitesh Sharma has completed one redemption arc in the red of PBKS. Now, he is aiming to do the same blue of India.

Jitesh said Shikhar Dhawan is a 'guardian.'

(Photo: The Quint)

About the latter, Jitesh says “Shikhar Dhawan is a guardian for me. He is not a micromanager who will intrude on every little thing you do. Instead, he will hop in with ‘Aur Jitesh, kaisa chal raha hai?’ (how are things, Jitesh?) every four-five days, just to ensure I am not getting derailed. If he senses that I am, he will show me the correct path and then let me be.”
Jitesh Sharma has completed one redemption arc in the red of PBKS. Now, he is aiming to do the same blue of India.

Jitesh Sharma reveals 'idol' MS Dhoni's advice.

(Photo: The Quint)

On meeting his idol MS Dhoni, Jitesh adds “I believe in not listening to everyone’s advices, because ultimately, it’ll complicate matters for you. But Dhoni bhai, on the contrary, gave the most uncomplicated advices. He told me to keep it simple, keep working hard and focus on my intensity.”

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Donning the Indian Jersey for the First Time

Yet, beyond jubilation, he was aware of Sanju Samson’s injury being the reason behind an unexpected opportunity, as he states “I will never prefer making it to the Indian squad at the expense of an injured player – I would rather be selected based on my performance.”

Jitesh Sharma has completed one redemption arc in the red of PBKS. Now, he is aiming to do the same blue of India.

How Rahul Dravid introduced Jitesh to the Indian squad.

(Photo: The Quint)

Reminiscing the experience, however, he gleefully further adds “Having said that, it was a fantastic feeling to don the Indian jersey. Head coach Rahul Dravid sir congratulated me, saying that he was impressed with my performances, and he gave me a crystal-clear message. He told me that the most important part of practice is to keep doing what I am doing, every single day. Just play my natural game, but be consistent at it, without thinking too much about the expectations.”

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Between January and June, Jitesh’s stature has grown manifolds. He has played multiple match-winning knocks, effectively establishing himself as among the more promising Indian finishers – a role that is currently in great demand.

I consider it a privilege to be a finisher, because people are pinning their hopes on you. I am fortunate that when I go out to bat, fans think I can win the game for my team.
Jitesh Sharma.
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PBKS fans, beyond the possibility of any scepticism, now consider Jitesh an ever-so-reliable cricketer for their team. And given his performances, he has been called up to the Indian team for Asian Games 2022.

When he was asked about if he has any preferred position in the team, Jitesh, straightforward as ever before, replied "India ke liye to gyaraah pe bhi batting kar lunga. (For India, I'm ready to bat at even number 11).

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