It was like a dream come true for this 18-year-old Delhi youngster. At around 10am on Friday, Ishant Sharma, sleeping after an early morning workout, was woken by an outstation call.
The BCCI’s Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty was on line, to tell him to pack his bags for Bangladesh. Munaf Patel had injured his back and the national selectors had decided Sharma was the man to replace him.
Sharma, recounting the moment to Hindustan Times a little later, said he was at once exultant yet disbelieving. Not so long ago, on December 26, 2006, a similar situation had arisen in South Africa and Sharma, then playing a Ranji Trophy match for Delhi in Rajkot, was asked to rush there as a replacement (for Munaf again).
But just a day later, Shetty called Sharma (he also spoke to the teenager’s parents) and apologised for what was a monumental farce. It had been decided then that a replacement was unnecessary.
For Sharma, it was déjà vu time. Yet, as television started broadcasting the news, the celebrations began and the Sharma family began to breathe a little easy.
It is difficult to imagine the ups and downs life has taken these past six months for this Class XII student of the Capital’s Ganga International School. But he said he’s taking it one day at a time.
“Let this first sink in. I was asleep when this call came and now I am trying to come to terms with the situation,” said Sharma, who refused to go into further details of whether he was worried about what the morrow would hold this time around.
He preferred to concentrate on the cricket. “It’s been fantastic. I have worked harder than ever over these months,” he said. His match-winning performance in the inaugural game of a local tournament — 8-2-24-2 (he did not allow the rival batsmen to get away in the final overs) — had him all excited.
“I’ve been following the four-week training schedule given to me during the Indian team camp in Kolkata by Venkatesh sir (Prasad),” said Sharma.
When asked about how he felt bowling to players like Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, he was naturally enthusiastic.
“All the seniors were of great help during the camp. In fact, everyone treated me as if I’d been around for long. Sachin sir was injured on Day One, but he still found time to talk to me. He basically told me to focus on line and length and preserve my energy systematically,” he said.
Tendulkar also told him to always bowl like he was bowling in a Test match situation, even if he was playing a one-dayer. He was told that that mindset would help him maintain his rhythm.
Prasad helped Sharma immensely during the camp. “Sir asked me to strictly follow his schedule and I’ve been working on it ever since my return from Kolkata. The training gradually gets tougher every week and it is strictly to be done on the ground, not in the gym,” said Sharma.
Sharma, for all his youth, seems to have a sensible head on his young shoulders. He is determined not to let success and potential stardom sway him, find time to meditate and remain grounded by taking the advice of his coach, Sharwan Kumar, on almost every thing.
“My fellow club cricketers treat me just like they used to and this takes the pressure off," said the Rohtak Road Gymkhana player with his usual shy smile. Hopefully, he’ll remain this way.