IPL 2024: 'SRH Think-Tank Were Pretty Much Clear With All Batters To Go Out And Express', Says Abhishek Sharma

(MENAFN- IANS) New Delhi, April 21 (IANS) A day before the Sunrisers Hyderabad took the field against Delhi Capitals at the Arun Jaitley Stadium on Saturday, Travis Head talked about the side's strategy of maximising power-play to the fullest in IPL 2024 in a select virtual media interaction.

"Here at the Sunrisers, the aim has been to take control of the Powerplay and be aggressive in the Powerplay. Myself, Abhi (Abhishek Sharma) and Klass (Heinrich Klassen) are able to do that. Every team has got different identities and different game plans and ours is to try to make the most of the Powerplay with the kind of batting we have got," Head had said.

On Saturday, Head and Abhishek did exactly what SRH have been successful at: go big in power-play and take bowlers to cleaners to pile another big total. Once DC skipper Rishabh Pant won the toss and put SRH into batting first, few would have predicted an absolute hurricane of boundaries coming from willows of Head and Abhishek in a power-play which looked more like stick cricket in fast-forward mode.

Head's onslaught began by smashing a six and two fours on Khaleel Ahmed's short balls, before Abhishek clipped one for another boundary in a 19-run opening over. Head pulled Lalit Yadav for back-to-back backfoot sixes over cow corner, before cutting hard and being helped by a misfield from Anrich Nortje to get a four, with Abhishek lofting inside-out for another boundary as 21 runs came off the second over.

Nortje was next to come in firing line, as Head hit him cleanly for four boundaries, before getting his fifty in just 16 balls, by whipping over deep mid-wicket for six, as 22 runs came off third over. It was also the third time Head reached half-century in power-play of IPL 2024, also the joint-fastest fifty by an SRH batter in IPL.

Abhishek pulled and smacked Lalit for two sixes, before Head slapped him down the ground for third six of the fourth over. Abhishek greeted Kuldeep with loft and pull to hit a brace of sixes, before ending the over by dancing down the pitch to hit another maximum, as SRH crossed 100 in just five overs, also the fastest century by a team in T20s.

Head smacked Mukesh Kumar four straight boundaries, before ending the powerplay with a loft over long-off for six as SRH made 125/0, setting new record for highest-ever score in power-play of T20s. Head would go on to make 82 off 39 balls, while Abhishek hit 46 off 12 balls as only five dot balls were played in the power-play, which was instrumental in SRH making 267/7, their third 250+ score in IPL 2024.

"It was a pretty easy message from the coaches and captain. They were pretty much clear with all the batters to go out and express yourself, and that's a very powerful yet simple message from the captain and coach. As a young top-order batter, you need to have that confidence from your captain and coach, which we got from day one. It's our job to go out there and play our game," said Abhishek on clarity from the team think-tank about power-play batting in the post-match press conference.

He was glowing in sharing about his view on batting with Head, who's in the form of his life in last 18 months. "After this innings, I can't say that we can't do anything right now and probably we don't have any target in our mind. But we knew that something better could happen as we felt we could have still hit a few balls better."

"I hope there's more than this going to come in future. Batting with Travis is very joyful and I have been talking a lot with him off the field. The team-mates in Punjab knew that I would admire Travis Head batting in all three formats. Luckily, we got him in our side, so that's good.

"I spoke to Travis about all these things (chatter around likely T20 World Cup selection); I share a lot of things with him. I am very much clear with my mindset and goals, which is to concentrate on what I am getting to play right now and just focus on it."

After taking the Player of the Match award, Head emphasised on how facing the spin of Lalit and Kuldeep brought out the best of Abhishek's aggressive batting against spinners. "When you're in good form, just try to keep it simple and react to the ball. Abhishek is aggressive against spin. First time we saw spin in the powerplay last game, and seeing how aggressive he is against spin, we try to let him do his thing. It was a very enjoyable partnership with him."

Later, Abhishek talked about his preparation ahead of facing Kuldeep, who was hit for 55 runs, but took four wickets, including him. "Personally, I always try to plan well for the spinners and main bowlers of the other team. For this match, I knew about being very careful with Kuldeep, as he's their main bowler and I was watching his videos. I then try to play against any of the similar local or net bowlers to prepare for that bowling style coming in the match, and that helps me a lot."

Pravin Amre, DC's assistant coach, admitted introducing Lalit from the second over was a punt they had taken with a hope to break the Head-Abhishek partnership, which wasn't executed well as per the team's liking.

"SRH's strength lies in their opening combination and even other teams fast-bowlers haven't controlled it. Lalit is a local boy and we sort of took a gamble on it due to the match-up of an off-spinner against two left-handed batters, as he knows Delhi wicket and could prove to be useful. But the way Abhishek handled our spinners, we have to give credit to him.

"We came to Kotla last night, there was slight dew. We thought that we could play later with dew, but unfortunately, that dew wasn't there. But we have to give credit to the way Travis Head and Abhishek Sharma batted to create that world record for 125 runs in power-play.

Abhishek came into IPL 2024 on the back of being Player of the Tournament in Punjab winning Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy last year, something which he feels is helping him. "Luckily, when with Punjab team, we had really good venues like Ranchi and Mohali, and that helps a lot in the domestic games as IPL does happen in venues like this.

"If you get to play matches for the state team before the IPL, its always in your mind that how it will play and how you have to bat on it. I believe I had a very clear plan in mind for IPL 2024, in terms of batting style and how to do it. It's going really good as I executed plans very well, but the hard work I put in before this tournament and in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy is really helping me a lot," said Amre.

DC didn't surrender meekly, as Jake Fraser-McGurk smashed a 15-ball fifty, the fastest half-century of this season, with seven dazzling sixes. But with Pant coming out to bat at six, and struggling majorly for fluency in his 44, along with Lalit promoted ahead of Axar Patel, made for some bizarre decision making.

"It was tremendous from Kuldeep to pull us back and the intent we showed was creditable. But the way Jake was playing, it was something remarkable. He can play pace and spin well, which is a very good sign for us. Credit also goes to Natarajan for taking four wickets and showing his good skills with the ball.

"It was tricky as we lost our impact player Prithvi Shaw early in the first over. Abishek Porel is a good finisher, but we had to use him in power-play and the batting order went down one number. Axar has taken the responsibility to be a finisher because after Stubbs, he was the one who can hit the ball.

"But the partnership could not happen the way we wanted. Rishabh is experienced and in form to be honest; he's the highest run-getter for us and has amassed more than 200 runs. He's a batter who can play at any situation," he added.

For a long time, SRH were known to win matches and even won IPL 2016 on the back of their strong bowling line-up. But for a change, in IPL 2024, it is their batters, especially Head and Abhishek, who are in red-hot form and are leaving everyone breathless through their power-play exploits, a reminder of which was dished out to DC and everyone in attendance at the stadium.



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