By Harry McLusky
Hampton plays host to countless young talents, across a wide range of sports: from tennis to cycling, from cross-country to cricket. Lower Sixth former, Naavya Sharma, is no exception to this trend, with his cricketing ability accelerating him into the school’s first XI, as well as various achievements outside of school with Sunbury and Middlesex Cricket Clubs.
As the cricketing season comes into view, I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to sit down with Sharma and ask him about his career in the sport, in the past, present and the future.
The summer of 2016 was the first time I ever personally experienced Sharma’s ability first-hand, with myself, playing for Hampton Prep School, and Sharma playing for Staines Prep in an U10s cricket match. From memory, his bowling ability was head and shoulders above everyone else’s, with the wicket keeper forced to stand ten steps further back in order to cope with his sheer speed – he still barely managed.
Needless to say, my school were heavily defeated in that game, with Sharma’s all-round talent, both with the bat and the ball, completely blowing us out of the water, despite him being of such a young age. From that moment onward, it was clear to me that Sharma had the potential to go far in the sport, and it was certainly reassuring to see that he would be on Hampton’s side instead of the opposition for years to come.
For Sharma, cricket was always the sport for him. Typically, he started out by ‘trying a few sports, but cricket seemed to be the one [he] enjoyed most’. His passion for the game was massively supported by both his parents, as he reminisced upon his Dad: ‘he would always be taking me to training, coaching me and sometimes batting with me. This ever-present support has continued for Sharma, with his cricketing commitments being assisted by his parents driving across the country for him.
One of the most significant cricket moments in Sharma’s career was his call up to the Bunbury Festival in 2021, at Loughborough University.
“Bunbury” is an annual cricket competition that brings together some of the best U15 cricketers from across the country for a T20 tournament. Having undergone a brutal trial stage, Sharma was called up to the “South and West” squad, and ended up finishing sixth on the bowling figures table, further manifesting his ability to impress with the ball.
His team ended victorious, conquering the Midlands team by 7 wickets, with Sharma taking impressive figures of 2-27 in the process.
Famous international cricketers, such as Joe Root, Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan all participated in the competition in their youth, reinforcing the skill level that Sharma has reached, and opening the door for potential successes in the future.
With regards to his prospects, Sharma is keeping his ambitions realistic, saying that as much as he’d ‘hope to go as far as cricket will take [him]’, he has, so far only achieved a ‘small fraction of [his] ambition’ and he ‘still needs to work a lot to get to [his] ambitions’ in the cricketing world.
His call-up to Middlesex County Academy last year will further propel him towards his goal, with the aim of receiving a professional contract at the age of 18 or 19 currently being in Sharma’s sights.
This was boosted by his victory in the ECB County Cup in 2022, with his Middlesex team beating other English counties to the trophy. Their victory was made ever more sweet, by a thrilling final win over arch rivals, Surrey, by 25 runs. Although Sharma went without a wicket in the final, he made crucial contributions with the ball throughout the knockout stages, picking up 5 important wickets – the 5th most out of anybody.
With regards to his bowling, many reading this may have seen his stunning wicket, that went viral in August 2022. Sharma’s debut for the Sunbury 1st XI, certainly was not without fireworks. Four overs into his opening spell, Sharma produced a moment of magic.
Sharma’s thought process helped him produce one of the best balls of his career, as he reflected on this, saying that: ‘I had bowled a couple of outswingers to the batsman before, so I thought he would instinctively set himself up for a leave, so I thought if I brought one back in, he might leave one onto his stumps’.
And that’s exactly what happened. The ball swung in by at least a metre, sending the off stump flying, and giving Sharma his maiden wicket, as ‘everyone started screaming’.
Days passed, and, typically, in the dressing room during a separate game, Sharma opened his social media to find that popular cricket account, ESPNCricInfo had posted his incredible delivery onto their pages, giving Sharma the publicity that could catalyse his career.
However, one thing that is particularly impressive about Sharma is his professional and humble stance on his career, stating that ‘focussing too much on becoming known, is not the best way to go’.
His Hampton career is equally as impressive, with Sharma scoring countless centuries with the bat, and breaking into the 1st XI last year.
Sharma showed appreciation from the support offered by the school, whether that be the expert advice of Mr Banerjee and Mr Harrison; the ability to train in his free periods; or training with the 1st XI, being a ‘good environment to be around’.
In terms of stand-out moments, Sharma has had a few with the school, to say the least.
Firstly, Sharma played a pivotal role in Hampton’s victory over RGS Guildford in Second Year (2019), which saw the former come out on top in a tense super over, in which Sharma batted and bowled to carry Hampton over the line in the season finale.
However, for Sharma his greatest achievement for Hampton was, undeniably, his score of 132 against Tiffin School last year. He came to the crease with Hampton struggling, collapsing to 15-3 early on. Nonetheless, Sharma’s relentlessness determination to win, led to him putting in the best performance of his Hampton career, and winning the game in superb style.
Looking forward, anticipation is building for the 1st XI’s exciting tour to the UAE, where the school’s best cricketers will deservedly get the opportunity to play on some magnificent pitches, with previous visits seeing them play at the famous Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
Furthermore, his cricketing ventures do not end there this year, with Sharma sharing his excitement to be visiting the ‘Desert Springs’ cricket facility in Almeria, Spain, with his Middlesex side later this year.
Sharma currently trains up to five times a week for Middlesex alone, in addition to regular fitness sessions: an incredibly hectic schedule, to say the least!
Nonetheless, his positive mindset in which he approaches this, is perhaps what makes him such a top-level cricketer. In addition to this, Sharma is juggling four A levels, adding additional weight to his already heavy workload.
On the contrary, Sharma has adapted his thinking to view cricket as ‘his free time’, and to ‘not dwell on’ the sacrifices he has to make to keep pushing towards his ultimate goal.
This incredible and professional mindset gives Sharma every opportunity to go all the way in the sport, if that is his desire, and his skillset is irrefutably good enough to accompany this.
He summed up his humility, professionalism and ambition brilliantly in just six words: ‘a lot of work to go’. Although he commented on his ‘pride for previous achievements’, it is certainly refreshing to see his grounded, yet ambitious approach to a future career in cricket, and I personally believe that the future is very promising for him.