When Sanju Samson dived to pull off that stunning catch in the first T20I, India had a huge problem, with the wicketkeeper being ruled out of the series due to that effort. But in the most proactive manner, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the 29-year-old Jitesh Sharma as his replacement.
Jitesh turned heads around after his display in the 2021-22 season of Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, where he scored 19 sixes. He was later picked in the Punjab Kings squad, where he made quite a storm with the bat in hand. Even then, the Vidarbha man never expected an Indian call-up this soon.
"I was not aware that I would get a call. I was not expecting a call-up. I was just preparing myself for the IPL because I was not in the Ranji Trophy squad. So I was working on my fitness. But all of a sudden, I got the call. Obviously, I was happy and eager to get the chance,” Jitesh told Hindustan Times.
“After that call, everything changed. I am getting a lot of calls from my relatives, school, and clubs but I am keeping things simple. I am preparing myself for every single opportunity," he said.
In the 12 matches that he got for the Punjab Kings, the right-handed batter smacked the ball at a strike-rate of 163, something that caught the eye of the selectors. Jitesh puts his ability to play under pressure to Indian domestic cricket, adding that the ‘fundamentals’ of cricket doesn’t change.
"Everything changed from there. No one expects a domestic player to straightaway score at a strike rate of 160. Most of the IPL franchises think that their main capped players will score. But having played so many years in domestic cricket, I know how to handle situations because the fundamentals of cricket don't change," he added.
Jitesh’s story didn’t end there. The wicketkeeper was yet again backed in the squad for the upcoming three-match T20I series against New Zealand, with a chance for him to make his India debut.
"I feel a lot more responsible now. I feel strong when I enter the dressing room. Ye India ka call mila hai means (I have got an India call-up) I am a strong person to handle this responsibility. I don't feel any extra pressure," Jitesh said.
“You get a homely feeling in the Indian dressing room. Apne log hai apni bhasha mein baatein karte hai (We can talk and discuss things in our language),” he opined.