Achievements

Batting the Odds: How once overweight Rishit is chasing his dream of playing for the Indian cricket team

The Apeejay International student talks about being inspired by Yuvraj Singh and Chris Gayle’s aggressive batting style

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An Under-19 cricketer who is undaunted by challenges, Rishit Sharma, a class 12 student of Apeejay School International, was the highest scorer in the United Arab Emirates as per Emirates Cricket Board (ECB). Moving to India a year ago, the young player talks about how he is nurturing his dream to be part of the Indian team.  

How did your cricket journey begin?

My journey started when I was smaller than a cricket bat. I used to love playing cricket with my friends and there was always an interest in the game. I used to love watching it on television with my father, and get excited seeing Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli bat. I then joined a cricket academy to learn the basics of the game and technique. At the academy, when I used to come across senior cricketers, I was very attracted to their jersey, wanting to represent my country like them. 

What were the major struggles initially? 

I was an overweight child. When I joined the academy, I realised that my body was holding me back and I wasn’t able to practice for longer durations. This was a major turning point for me. I then began to word towards increasing my stamina. I recall my father taking me to the practice ground each morning so I could exercise and be at par with other athletes. Cricket is a physically demanding sport, and therefore physical fitness is crucial to be a good cricketer. 

How did you get your first breakthrough as a cricketer?

As I started playing matches, I used to score only 10 or 15 runs. It was a difficult time for me, but I kept reminding myself about my capability. Once I asked my coach if I could open the innings at an Under-19 match. I was 16 at that time but he allowed me to do so. That really changed the game for me because I scored my first 77 not-out. It was the first time it happened and I could hear my teammates cheering for me.

Since that time, I have kept up with the consistency. Cricket changed for me that day and later I scored my first century at the ECB tournament. In the next tournament, I scored four consecutive centuries and people began to recognise me across the United Arab Emirates.

What does your regular training look like?

My fitness and cricket training has been intense. Before school, I do my fitness sessions and after that I practice with bowling machines and specialised batting drills. I never had any time to focus on anything else and every weekend, I play a match to test my ability. With diligence and hard work, I have been able to score 19 – the highest in the yo-yo fitness test – at the ICC camp which is a big achievement for me.

Do you have plans to play any domestic tournaments?

I plan to play for Delhi in the district tournament at the Under-19 level. For that, I am currently focusing on my trials to better myself.

What is your strength as a batsman?

My strongest technique is my aggressive attitude while batting. I aim to get into the head of the bowler, and this technique helped me become the opening batsman for UAE at the Asia Cup held in Oman. The same technique is also reflected in my strike-rate as I was the highest six-hitter at the tournament.

Who is your Indian and International role model?

I am inspired by Yuvraj Singh and Robin Singh. I was training under Robin Singh who is the Chairman of Emirates Cricket Board. He has taught me a lot of techniques. Amongst International cricketers, Chris Gayle is the best T-20 player at the moment. He is my biggest inspiration when it comes to aggressive batting. I look up to Jonty Rhodes for fielding and fitness since he is the best fielder the game has ever seen. 

Mrini Devnani is Senior Correspondent (Newsroom). She covers student achievements, interviews and contributions for the website. She was a former Correspondent covering Edutech for the India Today Group, and has a passion for Social Media and Digital Marketing. You can reach her at [email protected]

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