Four days ago, Rahul Sharma was struggling to speak in English at the prize distribution ceremony of the JP Atray tournament where he won the man-of-the-series award. His teammates insisted he should acquire English speaking skills as he might get a call to the India team. Finally, he said in English, "Thank you for the award".However, this would be nothing considering what he has been through.
Over a year ago, the 24-year-old leg spinner wasn't even sure he could play again. The new face in the ODI squad from Jalandhar, whose famous son Harbhajan Singh was dropped by the selectors, was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy.
Sharma had severe pain on the right side of his face and some paralysis, his vision became hazy and his doctor said he could not play.
However, picked by Deccan Chargers in the 2010 IPL season, he found support from skipper Adam Gilchrist. His condition gradually improved and he grabbed headlines this year as a rare bright spot for Pune Warriors.
"I am happy my hard work has paid off. This is a great opportunity for me. I would like to thank everyone who showed faith in me," he told the Hindustan Times from Jaipur, where he is slated to play for Rest of India against Ranji champions Rajasthan in the Irani Cup.
Spin to the tale
Nicknamed Venky after Venkatesh Prasad, he started as a medium pacer but turned to spin to make better use of his height.
"My first coach Tony Lamba convinced me to turn to spin. Later, I started coaching under Devender Arora." An injury rehab at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore gave him the opportunity to train under Anil Kumble.
"He was very helpful and taught me a lot. His tips and corrections will help me in improving my bowling."