Vidarbha and Punjab Kings (PBKS) cricketer Jitesh Sharma has been included in the Indian squad for the upcoming Asian Games 2023, which comes after he was called up as the backup keeper during Sri Lanka T20Is earlier this year.
The keeper-batter has impressed one and all with his finishing abilities with the bat for PBKS in the last two IPL seasons. His audacious strokeplay has been endorsed by former India cricketers Anil Kumble and Virender Sehwag, who want him in India’s T20 set-up.
29-year-old has been picked for the 19th Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, China. Jitesh says getting selected for the Asiad is going to be a life-changing experience for him and he already has a few things to mark off in his checklist.
“Milkha Singh ka movie jaisa vibe aayega jab saare ladke walk karenge. It will be an absolute privilege to walk with the top sportspersons of our country.
I want to meet Neeraj Chopra. He is an idol. He has won an Olympic gold, I don’t think anything can beat that. I want to meet him and will try to talk about his mentality. Playing individual sports is a difficult task. In cricket, you are always surrounded by ten people; you always get that moral support. But in an individual sport, you are on your own out there,” Jitesh told The Indian Express.
“It will be a very good experience to be in the games village with other athletes, have breakfast with them, and train with them in the gym. Understanding their routine and how they got into their business. In cricket tournaments, you don’t get to live those experiences. It will be a life-changing experience for me,” he added.
Interestingly, Jitesh Sharma never had a proper coach during his early days and learned batting by watching YouTube videos of Adam Gilchrist and Sourav Ganguly. Currently, he is binge-watching Suryakumar Yadav’s batting videos and then trying to execute them on the net.
“I am just trying to observe Suryakumar Yadav. Main unke jitna skillful nahi hoon (I am not as skillful as him). But I am watching his videos on how he manipulates the field, and how he plays those risk-free shots. I am just trying to learn from his batting. Everyone has a different skill set. I am just trying to explore my game and make it 360,” he said.
He said: “I am trying to be calmer when I am keeping. As a wicketkeeper, my feedback is very important to the team. When you are keeping for so long, you can’t bring sudden changes in your skillset. You can do minor adjustments.”
Jitesh had a good season for Punjab Kings in 2022, where he scored 234 in 12 outings with a strike rate of 163.63. He made sure that he is not a one-season-wonder, scoring 309 runs at a strike rate of 156.06 while batting at No. 5 or lower in IPL 2023.
“IPL has given me recognition. Life has changed for sure, but nothing drastic. I have started receiving more phone calls and text messages. I see it as a privilege that you are getting recognition. I have seen when you are going through a bad phase, no one wants to talk to you. Getting more well-wishers is a good thing. I am now getting good bats because of my performance. I am a very spiritual guy and I love visiting different temples and because of this recognition, I get entries pretty easily,” he said.
After hitting all the ups and down in his cricketing career, Jitesh feels that his fitness kept him going.
“I always wanted to go into defense. I wanted to be an air force officer. I was always a fitness freak. In cricket, fitness is a must. Cricket is a physical activity, it’s not Chess. If you are going out to bat, you cannot walk out without wearing your pads. I don’t think there should be any debate regarding fitness,” he said.
The men’s cricket competition will take place from 28th September to 8th October in a T20 format.