His big brother gave up cricket for him, 23-yr-old from Jammu repays faith with Rs 2.6-cr IPL deal

HE WAS once a promising batsman, but sacrificed his career to take over the family business after his father Himanshu Sharma died of kidney failure in 2015. Vikrant Sharma’s decision allowed his younger brother Vivrant to pursue his cricketing dream.

On Friday, that family decision paid off when Vivrant, the 23-year-old J&K leg-spinning all-rounder, was picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs 2.60 crore — 13-fold his base price — at the IPL mini-auction in Kochi.

And yet, Vivrant’s day of joy was tinged with regret. “If my father had been alive, he would have been very happy. But still, my journey has just begun. Papa’s demise hit us. My brother took over the business (acid and chemicals) and told me to focus on cricket. He had played at the inter-university level. He was my idol and I used to copy his batting stance. I was a right-handed batsman and switched just to mimic my brother, and the change stuck,” Vivrant told The Indian Express from Ahmedabad where J&K was involved in a Ranji Trophy game against Gujarat.

Friday also marked several record-breaking buys at the IPL with Punjab Kings shelling out an all-time high of Rs 18.25 crore for England all-rounder Sam Curran. Two other all-rounders — Cameron Green (Mumbai Indians, Rs 17.5 crore) and Ben Stokes (Chennai Super Kings, Rs 16.25 crore) — also triggered frenzied bidding in Kochi.

In Jammu, meanwhile, Vivrant’s mother Sunita Mangotra is a high-school teacher who made sure that her son chased his dream single-mindedly. “She has been the backbone of our family. She is one of the most strong-willed women I have seen. She always told me, ‘don’t worry, just follow your dream and make sure you reach there’,” Vivrant said.

Last year, Vivrant was with Sunrisers Hyderabad as a net bowler, picked after his senior in the J&K team, Abdul Samad, shared videos of his bowling with the team management.

“There are so many well-wishers to whom I want to express my gratitude. But obviously, it started with my friends and teammates who played in the IPL, which gave me self-belief. It started with Rasikh Salam, then Abdul Samad got picked before Umran Malik (the fast bowler who now plays for India) followed,” Vivrant said.

“Last year, I was picked as a net bowler. It went well. Just being there with the top cricketers gives you enough confidence. Spending training sessions with the likes of Brian Lara, Muthiah Muralidaran and Dale Steyn, you improve as a cricketer,” he said.

This year, Vivrant had a great white-ball domestic season. He scored 128 runs in four innings in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy, batting at No. 6 with an impressive strike rate of 145.45. He also picked six wickets at an excellent economy rate of 6.66.

In the Vijay Hazare (50-over) Trophy, the J&K team promoted him to top of the order, and he scored 395 runs in eight matches, including a century and two fifties. “I can bat anywhere in the top six,” Vivrant said, adding that he considers himself a “proper all-rounder”.

“I am not a part-time bowler. I can bowl four overs in T20s and 10 in one-dayers,” he said. “Right from age-group cricket, I have focused on my batting as well as bowling. In batting, I have worked on power-hitting, and now I have the confidence to hit sixes with authority.”

The lucrative IPL deal has, unsurprisingly, made him a sought-after member of the J&K team. “Abhi phone rakhta hun warna hotel ka gate tod denge yeh log (I am disconnecting the call, or they [his teammates] will break the door of my hotel room).”

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