Rahul Sharma is geared up for the upcoming ODIs against England. The young leg spinner tells Manu Shankar his ability to attack a batsman by making him play all the time makes him a wicket-taking bowler.
The phone lines of a certain Pradeep Sharma haven't stopped ringing. Reason? His son got a call-up to the national side for the first two One-Day Internationals in the upcoming series against England.
Though the selectors have named him only for the first two matches, Rahul Sharma isn't complaining. When former India wicketkeeper Parthiv Patel broke the news to the lanky leg-spinner, he was overwhelmed. Then, as the moment sunk in, there was a sense of achievement. As he humbly puts it, "Mera sapna poora ho gaya (My dreams have come true)."
Sharma was in Jaipur, preparing for the Rest of India versus Rajasthan match, when India's squad was announced. And the delight of being selected reflected in his performance. Though he went wicketless in the first innings, but smashed a 38-ball 52 in Rest of India's essay, he polished off the tail in the second, finishing with figures of 2-49.
'I wanted to bowl alongside Harbhajan'
Sharma and pacer Sreenath Aravind are the two new faces in India's squad for the first two ODIs, the first of which is on October 14, at Hyderabad.
"It is my dream to wear that blue jersey, so I'm really happy that I was selected for the ODI series," declared an ecstatic Sharma.
"I was preparing for the Irani Trophy when Rest of India captain Parthiv broke the news. I was shocked to hear it; it was not until I saw my name on the Net that I believed that it actually happened," he said.
But he was quick to add that he was "a bit disappointed on learning that had replaced Harbhajan Singh".
"Soon after the selection I got a message from Bhajjubhai wishing me luck. I wanted to bowl alongside Harbhajan. I've always dreamt of the day when I would be bowling alongside him," he lamented.
"Since both of us are from Jalandhar, I look up to him for guidance; he passes on his experience to me."
'I always let my performance speak'
The call-up to India's squad was, perhaps, the best moment in the lanky spinner's life. After all, besides his on-field battles, Sharma also had to contend with off-field issues that almost threatened to cut short his career.
A sudden bout of Bell's Palsy cast a cloud over his future before a fantastic showing for Sahara Pune Warriors in the fourth season of the Indian Premier League, where he claimed 16 wickets from 14 matches, at an economy rate of 5.46, turned things around.
Immediately, he was in contention for India's tour to West Indies, but narrowly missed out to Amit Mishra.
But Sharma has no regrets. "I wasn't disappointed. I always let my performance speak. The selectors too felt that I needed couple of more domestic seasons before I enter the big league," he says.
'My strength is my accuracy'
He was expected to be part of the India 'A' team's tour Down Under for the Emerging Players' series, but a back injury ruled him out.
Now, stronger and fitter, he is raring to go as Team India looks to avenge the humiliation it suffered on the recent tour of England, where it was drubbed 4-0 in the four Tests and 3-0 in the five ODIs.
Speaking about the English team, Sharma said he is aware of their batsmen's attacking instincts, having closely followed the recent England tour. His ability to attack a batsman by making him play all the time, he feels, makes him a wicket-taking bowler.
"My strength is my accuracy. Plus the bounce that I generate off the pitch also helps me get a lot of wickets. I will look to deceive the English players off the pitch and with bounce," he said.
'Have been trying to develop a flipper'
Reminded that the lack of good spinners in the country was among the reasons for the recent debacle in England, Sharma hit back: "There is no dearth of good spinners in the country. The England batsmen haven't faced me anywhere, so it will be interesting."
Are there any new variations he will try out against the English?
"I've been speaking to [Anil] Kumble sir and have been trying to develop a flipper and couple of other things. Just hope it works out for me," he said.