Mohali, May 4 (IANS) Though Punjab Kings ended up on the losing side against Mumbai Indians, uncapped wicketkeeper-batter Jitesh Sharma enhanced his big-hitting credentials in the fag-end of the innings to be unbeaten on 49 off 27 balls, smashing five fours and two sixes.
Despite the defeat as Mumbai chased down 215 with ridiculous ease and seven balls to spare, Punjab’s assistant coach Brad Haddin heaped praise on Jitesh’s counter-attacking knock.
“The one thing which we found with Jitesh is that — obviously he’s building really well and starting to mature into his game. But he’s one of those players got a unique ability to go from ball one.”
“I don’t know if he’s got the guts because he’s got his keeping to fall back on and you get that freedom to play. But his ability to go from ball one was something that we wanted to use higher in the order, and it worked. I think we’ll see a lot more of those sorts of innings,” he said in the post-match press conference.
In sharing a decisive 119-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Liam Livingstone, who was 82 not out off 42 balls, Jitesh justified his promotion to number five. He was the early aggressor by smashing Jofra Archer over wide long-off, a thick outside edge flying past short third man and pull going past deep mid-wicket to take three fours off a 21-run 13th over.
“He’s developing nicely; he’s gained a lot of confidence as the tournament’s gone on and, and that reflected in where we used him in the match. He’s played really well in the previous games, where he’d only face 10 balls.”
“We’ve seen once he goes out there, he actually has no fear of the game. He likes to take the game on, and we wanted to give him that opportunity tonight (in this match) to face more balls while he’s in a bit of form,” added Haddin.
Jitesh has been in Punjab’s set-up since being acquired by the franchise in the auction before Indian Premier League (IPL) 2022. But it was his cameo of 26 off 17 balls against Chennai Super Kings which propelled him to be a regular in the playing eleven.
With clean ball-striking and the ability to garner runs against pace apart from thriving in every scenario, Jitesh earned a maiden India T20I call-up earlier in the year when Sanju Samson suffered a knee injury. Wednesday’s display will lead to louder shouts for a debut T20I cap for Jitesh, especially with Rishabh Pant still on the road to recovery post a serious car crash last year.
“Our plan was to not do anything different. We just wanted to give him the opportunity to play exactly the same way but face more balls. In the previous games we’ve seen, he’s got a bit of rhythm and tempo in his game and we just want him to play exactly the same way.”
“We’ve got a deep batting lineup, we’ve got Sam and other guys behind him. If he got out, so be it, but we just wanted to give him the opportunity to see what he could do if he faced 30 balls,” concluded Haddin.