Abhishek Sharma — not just another part-time spinner

While the focus has preliminarily been on Abhishek Sharma’s batting dynamics, he spun his magic with the ball as well in Qualifier 2 to take Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) to the final.
Abhishek Sharma backspinner?width=963&height=541&resizemode=4
Abhishek Sharma has a wicket-taking weapon that he unleashed in the second Qualifier.

While the focus has preliminarily been on Abhishek Sharma’s batting dynamics, he spun his magic with the ball as well in Qualifier 2 to take Sunrisers Hyderabad (SRH) to the final. He picked two wickets and conceded only 24 runs, scalping prize wickets of Sanju Samson and Shimron Hetmyer.

One of those, the wicket of Hetmyer, was a fascinating delivery for not many slow left-arm orthodox spinners in the world can bowl it. Abhishek Sharma, usually a left-arm orthodox spinner, turns the ball right to left of the wicket, away from right-hand batters.

These bowlers generally aren't preferred to left-hand batters in the name of matchups, but Abhishek not only bowled to Hetmyer but also sent him back, using his special backspinner.

A backspinner is bowled using the thumb and index finger, and on release, the middle finger gives a little click backwards, imparting backspin. So, when a backspinner leaves the hand, it turns opposite to the direction of the seam position against the direction of travel.

Take pacers’ leg-cutter, for example. They keep some part of the palm behind the ball to impart some backspin. Abhishek rolls his finger over the seam similarly.

Since Abhishek doesn’t put a lot of revs on his backspinner, the ball doesn’t really move much from left to right (opposite of the stock delivery) and instead goes slightly straighter. He keeps the seam up, slightly pointed towards the first slip on release. But since it is a backspinner, it doesn’t go from right to left and almost turns the other way. 

Seam pointing towards the first slip

Hetmyer expected it to turn into him and got beaten as the ball went past his outside edge to crash the stumps (the yellow one). He went off the backfoot to guide it towards the cover region, expecting the ball to spin into him. Hetmyer could have also played it from the frontfoot to at least save his wicket.

The yellow one is the wicket delivery.

This isn't the first rendition of Abhishek's magic delivery. At 18 years old in 2019, he bowled a similar one to Colin Munro in the IPL. He generally bowls from wide of the crease to LHBs, and after getting hit for a six, Abhishek tried a backspinner. He tossed the ball on wider lines, and Munro tried to slash it hard, but the ball just straightened after landing to take the outside edge of the bat, going straight to the wicketkeeper.

Another thing about a slow bowler’s backspinner is that it slows down after pitching since the ball loses momentum after being released and goes through fuller than anticipated due to the backspin. The bounce also remains slightly low and drifts from left to right, away from left-handers. Such deliveries can look like a carrom ball, which is another weapon in Abhishek's armoury, but are slightly different.

It brings LBWs more into the play, especially against right-handers. In IPL 2020, Abhishek deceived Aaron Finch with his uncanny backspinner befuddling the batter. That delivery landed fuller and went low to Finch, who tried to sweep but to no effect.

Also Read: Sunrisers Hyderabad give glimpses of the future in a revolutionary IPL season

Deepak Hooda also succumbed to a similar delivery while playing for Punjab Kings (PBKS) in IPL 2021. Abhishek gave it a backspin, and the ball drifted into Hooda, who missed his sweep and was out LBW.

Unfortunately, Abhishek hasn’t bowled enough in IPL 2024 to gather more evidence. But SLAs generally don’t bowl such deliveries, making Abhishek a special bowler. To his credit, he has shown ample control over his lengths on such deliveries.

The immediate aftermath of this is if the track for the IPL 2024 final is similar to the one in the previous game, Abhishek could well be the most mysterious spinner in a game that likely also involved Sunil Narine and Varun Chakravarthy.

As for his personal gains, being more than just a mere part-timer and smashing the ball the way he does, makes Abhishek a promising prospect for India in limited-overs cricket.

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