The bond of two brothers burns bright in Vivrant's emergence
Last season, a promising cricketer from Jammu, Vivrant Sharma, was a part of the Sunrisers Hyderabad camp as a net bowler. By that time, his Jammu and Kashmir team-mates - Abdul Samad and Umran Malik - had already played for the SRH main side, with Umran taking a step further by donning the India jersey. Samad had also helped Vivrant by taking him to the nets of his franchise. Watching his team-mates graduate to higher honours, somewhere, it inspired Vivrant to try that much harder to achieve success.
"Like I had gone to play as a net bowler for the side. For 7-8 years, we have been playing together. Even our family and his family, there is a bond. When he got selected, we got motivation that we can also play. Umran also got selected, so we thought, if they could play, we can also play," says Vivrant to Cricbuzz.
When the IPL mini-auction was held, the spin bowling-all-rounder was picked by SRH for 2.6 Cr on the back of his fine showing for J and K in limited overs cricket. "We (players) were watching it live on the site, when it came (SRH picking him in the auction), it felt really good. Presently, playing the Ranji match in Ahmedabad, felt excited."
His elder brother, Vikrant Sharma also was going through a mixture of emotions at his home. Deep into the auction, Vivrant's name came up for bidding and turned out to be a hard-fought contest between KKR and SRH before the latter finally managed to seal the deal by outbidding KKR. "We just knew the auction was going to start at 1.30 PM. When it becomes 12 PM, I just took a chair and started watching TV with an eagle eye," Vikrant, who manages family business, told Cricbuzz.
"When the moment came, they took up the name of Vivrant Sharma and the price was going on and on. That is when I thought, 'OMG! The boy has got such talent that KKR's coach Chandrakant Pandit was so much interested in him'. That thing made me feel proud. That both (former) winning franchises... Vivrant was going to get picked either with Kolkata or Hyderabad, it was a very fantastic experience," he added.
The age difference between Vikrant and Vivrant is 10 years. But while speaking to the brothers, separately, one could imagine the unshakable bond that exists between the two.
To delve deeper into the strong bond between the two, one has to turn the pages back to 1999 - the year Vivrant was born. At that time, Vikrant was pursuing his own aspirations of becoming a professional cricketer but soon the two boys had to wade through a tragedy at home - their mother passed away. The catastrophic incident changed Vikrant's perspective towards life. "When he (Vivrant) was born, I was also playing club cricket and indulging in local academies... my basic sports practice.
"After the demise of my mother, it was very shocking news for our family. At that stage, I had to change my focus from my sports career to this little boy so he doesn't feel bad, emotionally. He was just four or five years old at that time, I was going to the ground on and off."
With an elder sibling at home, there is a chance that the younger one would pick up a few traits or styles, and Vivrant was no different. "My elder brother played cricket, I kept watching him from sixth standard. By watching him, started to bat left-handed. He was also bowling, so started to bowl as well. My brother helped me a lot," he said. "Brother used to take me by bike... playing sports, as soon as I came from school, it was about going to the ground, I mainly used to be at the ground."
Growing up in Jammu, cricket was more like a hobby for Vivrant. More significantly, his father wanted both his sons to take up boxing and one day represent India. But a certain incident convinced Vikrant that cricket would be a better option for his brother to pursue.
"He (father - Sushil Sharma) was a boxer, he always believed that the individual game was going to give him a lot of success. He was continuously asking us, 'you both will come, I will train, how you can become a boxer'. There was a sudden incident in our house, we were just playing normal, gully cricket. At that particular moment, the leather ball hit Vivrant's lips. The blood flow was low (and) I immediately cleaned that blood.
"At that time, I felt like, 'this is the right time to go on (carry forward) my dreams on Vivrant's shoulders'. So that day I told father, it (boxing) was a very dangerous game, please let me take Vivrant with me (to play cricket)'. When he said, 'go on, try, there is almost 100 Cr population in India, let's see what he can do'. I told my father, 'it is not 100 Cr population, it is about a limited (number) between 10 to 20 (age-group)'. Then he said, 'okay, go on then'."
The bond just became a little bit stronger as the two brothers had to face another tragedy - their father too passed away. The tragic incident just made Vikrant even more determined to support Vivrant. "After the demise of my father (told Vivrant), 'my focus is on you, we are going to have a very professional approach in your preparation, in your eating habits, in your lifestyle'.
"He started playing for the state after the demise of my father. So Under-14 came, he was nine years old, he came with me to the grounds. We do practice every day. When he was 12 years, he got selected in Under 14s. He performed with the ball. Bishan Singh Bedi sir was the coach and mentor for J and K Cricket Association. He had seen that he has a particular strength in his bowling and his attitude as a sportsperson is very good," he observed.
Behind the scenes, Vikrant was like a pillar of strength while despite setbacks, Vivrant showcased his skills on the pitch. The point can be exemplified by a couple of Under 19 games where Vikrant provided Vivrant with emotional support. "In Under-19, he played a fantastic knock of 89. He said to me, 'oh, I was short by just 11 runs'. Then it was his second Under-19 game, he was playing for Cooch Behar at that time, if I'm not mistaken with Vidarbha. He played a 158 knock, debut hundred. Then I told, 'don't take it in your mind (missing out on a hundred in the previous game). Just go on, have a positive approach, you're on the right track'."
A couple of trial matches at the Under 19 level give further evidence of Vivrant's temperament to bounce back from failures. "I was in Under 19, I wasn't getting into the team... I wasn't even getting into the team for the longest format," Vivrant says. "So we had trial matches and I didn't do well. In the last match, the selectors had told, 'it is your last innings. If you do well, you're selected or otherwise dropped'. In that innings, I had scored 80-ball 160. It was the turning point of my life, that is when I started to feel confident about myself like I belong to this place."
Raman Thaploo, Jammu and Kashmir wicket-keeper and Vivrant's friend, also remembers a trial game where in a light-hearted manner he had teased a young Vivrant. But on the same day, Thaploo came to know Vivrant had put on an exhibition of six-hitting. "One day an Under 19 trial match was going on at GGM college hostel ground in Jammu, Vivrant got out for only 4 for 5 runs. I was there, because a Ranji trophy camp was going there.
"I was talking to Vivrant, 'you got out on five, what is this?' He replied, 'kal, yahaan par ball ghumaunga' (tomorrow I will hit the ball everywhere). So I said, 'okay, tomorrow we will see what you will do'. And the same day, there was another trial match. And in that innings, I came to know Vivrant scored 186 not out, that too with help of 12 sixes. Very talented left-handed batsman, one of the best of J and K."
Eventually, during the 2021-22 season, Vivrant made his limited overs debut for the senior Jammu and Kashmir team. In the ongoing domestic season, in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy, he showed flashes of his immense potential when he compiled a fifty against Karnataka with his side in all kinds of trouble at 31 for 6. In the following Vijay Hazare trophy, he was asked to bat at No.3 but as destiny would have it, their opener, Qamran Iqbal suffered an injury and Vivrant moved up a place to open the batting. And runs started to flow from his willow.
"In the Vijay Hazare, the management said, 'play at No.3'. But the opener got injured and I played at the opening slot. There was a match (against Madhya Pradesh), we were chasing 340 (343), (scored 69) and got momentum from there and I did well with the bat. That knock (124-ball 154 against Uttarakhand) also was a turning moment, felt good," notes Vivrant.
Vivrant is renowned for his dashing stroke-play, and isn't afraid to charge down the track to pace bowlers and loft them on either side of the wicket. But what about the other weapon in his quiver - spin bowling? Thaploo for one believes Vivrant has the ability to pick up key wickets at crucial moments. "He is a very good leg-spinner, he has a very good googly. At present, you can see it in the Ranji trophy. There was a partnership building in the match between Madhya Pradesh and J and K. He was given the ball by the captain and he went and took the wicket of Yash Dubey... he has a golden arm."
All this while, the SRH think tank was keeping a keen eye on the young prodigy's performances. "There, Tom Moody, Brian Lara and Muralitharan had seen the skill," says Vikrant. "They just told Vivrant, 'you have a very good future, go and represent the upcoming season for J and K, we are going to have a sharp eye on you'." The franchise indeed kept a close eye on Vivrant and made up their minds to buy him at the auction.