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Setbacks' favourite child

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Rahul SharmaJust when one Rahul was about to hang his boots, another was drafted into the squad. And just when (ironically), India will start its life without Rahul D; the other Rahul has been ousted from the side. Rahul Sharma’s is one of the most attention grabbing stories in the recent history of Indian cricket. Not that he is an obsessive attention seeker and neither has the attention arrived in a positive manner all the time. The means or modes may change, but the attention has never stopped its affiliation with Rahul Sharma. Sometimes it arrived thanks to a long wait post his debutin domestic cricket,sometimes a medical issue that threatened his career and life itself and a recent case of drug abuse. Questions and hurdles seem to stalk Rahul Sharma wherever he travels. And as interesting as this part of the story is, the reaction to these hurdles is what makes me like this guy.

The Karnataka connection

Although from Jalandhar, Punjab, Rahul shares a close tie with Karnataka. An obvious name sharing with one of India’s great batsman; if that is not enough then his height and the ability to extract bounce from the wicket make people draw comparisons with India’s most successful bowler-Anil Kumble. Rahul Sharma has been a product of the post Kumble era; a period that’s witnessing a growing obsession of touting every leg spinner as a perfect replacement for Anil Kumble. Before Sharma, it was Amit Mishra and Piyush Chawla. But, they both fizzled away as rapidly as they grew. CometheIPL-4 and by the end of it, Rahul Sharma had made all the right noises with his Kumble like height, an ability to extract bounce and as few will say his lack of ability to spin the ball.

But we tend to end the comparisons there and there about. We grow cautious, thinking how great Anil Kumble is; how monumental and staggering his records are. And how difficult will it be for this new comer to emulate the feats Kumble has performed. There is no surprise why the idea of emulating someone is often met with adjectives such as unfeasible and unattainable. Very seldom, the idea of emulating greatness is backed and not made fun of. We sometimes tend to forget that greatness and achievements are often end products of a long career. Hence, they are there to motivate, encourage and eventually to be emulated and surpassed.

From a medium pacer to a leg spinner with grit and patience as companions

Rahul like Kumble started his career as a medium pacer. Having the height perhaps was the natural trigger that led him to follow the medium pace mode than the spin. It was during his under-14 days that his coach insisted on him bowling spin. For Kumble, it was his elder brother who did the same. Sharma like Kumble possesses a very rare quality of being gritty and tenacious. It may well be a bit premature now to identify him as a future great and bestow him with all the adjectives that sit beside greatness. However, the meet with history would not be too misleading if one were to roll back the years. On the basis of a good show in the age group cricket, Rahul made it to the Punjab Ranji Team. Making his debut in 2006 at the age of 20, all seemed to be moving in the right direction. But as luck would have it, he did not get a game till 2009. As he says, may be because there were too many good spinners in the Punjab ranks. Come 2009, Rahul found a place in the Punjab line up and went on to play 7 matches during that season. More than the wickets tally, it was the bounce of the wicket and accuracy with the ball that garnered attention of many.

Fighting through the pain

2010 and IPL-3, Deccan Chargers found him good enough to sign him. But fate had some other plans reserved for him. He developed a medical condition called Bell’s Palsy- a form of facial paralysis where the inability to control facial muscles on the affected side creeps in and it may well lead to brain tumour, stroke etc. He played with a ball in one hand and a towel in the other. Keep in mind, the boy had to put eye drops every second ball. If it is irritating to do it off the field, it is even more so on the field post every ball.And yet amidst all that he remained focused and undisturbed throughout. It is perhaps this spirit that made Adam Gilchrist, back Rahul so much. This reminds me of a jaw draped Anil Kumble going all out against Brian Lara and eventually dismissing him. The one (of the many) highlighting instance of Kumble’s career that defined the grit of the man.

Life at peace is a big no-no. But he finds support from many quarters

The good times with IPL 4, an entry into the limited overs and Test squad of India, things seem to be going right. But naah, it is the life of Rahul Sharma;things feel abnormal if the boy has a good life with no obstacles. Rahul has been accused of a drug abuse at the party held during IPL 5. However, he has found supportive coaches, friends, family members, co-players etc. His Pune Warriors coach, Praveen Amre, a low profile man but someone whose opinions are well respected in the domestic cricket circuits openly states that he has not seen Rahul having a beer, leave alone drugs. The system fortunately for him, is ready to give him its backing.

What the future holds for him?

The future, even after the charges of drug abuse seems bright for Rahul Sharma. Although he is not a member of the Test team for the Test series against New Zealand and in the World T20 Championship, the selection for India A perhaps is his entry pass to make a comeback to the team. Considering India’s heavily fielded tour diary for next two years, Rahul Sharma has a great chance to bulldoze his way into the team. We have to remember, he has not got what he desired,easily. Infact, he had to fight hard and long to earn it. Hence, unlike many, his system is built for ‘fight and earn’ mode rather than ‘easy way ahead’.
For once let the boy dream big. For once, back the boy who wants to be a leg spinner in India and make it big.

For once let’s not repeat the mistake of writing off a leg spinner who might not possess vicious turn. For once, give Rahul Sharma some time and wish that he does the best.



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