Public enterprise selection board on Wednesday named Sharma, presently the acting C&MD and also director (finance) of ONGC, as its number one choice for the post, which fell vacant in May when Subir Raha completed his five year term.
A K Hazarika, director (on shore), was the number two choice of the elite selection panel, which interviewed 12 candidates today, informed sources said.
However, oil regulator V K Sibal did not turn up for the interview, a move that many believe was prompted by the cold shoulder Prime Minister's Office gave to his application for the top job.
A recipient of the India CFO Award 2005, Sharma, 55, is a Fellow Member of the Institute of Cost and Works Accountants of India and an Associate Member of the Indian Institute of Bankers.
He superseded old hats to become director (finance) of ONGC in 2002 after he put together a comprehensive insurance policy for the company's offshore and onshore assets at a substantially reduced premium.
But he emerged as dynamic man manager during the crisis following the fire at a crucial oil installation in prime Mumbai High fields in July 2005. His coordination of rescue operation at a time when Mumbai was deluged, saved hundreds of lives.
His crisis management skills came to fore yet again this month when he got the company's flood-hit Hazira gas unit up and running in less than two weeks time.
Sources said the PSEB recommendation would now go to the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet and various other agencies for necessary clearance and approval.
The process may take more than a couple of months, they said. Besides Sharma and Hazarika, all the functional directors of ONGC namely director (exploration) D K Pande, director (offshore) N K Mittra, director (human resource) A K Balyan and director (technical) U N Bose appeared for the interviews.
However, R S Butola, managing director of ONGC Videsh Ltd, opted out of the contest in favour of the company's internal candidate.
Two directors from state-run gas utility GAIL (India) Ltd - U D Choubey, director (marketing) and M R Hingikar, director (human resources) also appeared for the interviews.
Sharma joined ONGC as joint director (finance) in 1988. He has varied experience in project and corporate finance affairs of ONGC. Before taking charge of the post of director (finance), ONGC on March 1, 2002, he functioned for a short duration as director (finance) of ONGC Videsh Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of ONGC.
Prior to joining ONGC, Sharma had attained rich experience in finance, banking and credit appraisal, including overseas posting as regional finance head of a PSU construction company, during early eighties.
Recently, Sharma was conferred with India CFO Award 2005 for excellence in finance in a PSU by International Market Assessment, in association with BNP Paribas, Sun Micro Systems and CNBC TV 18.