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Warriors' lone beacon

From being diagnosed with facial nerve paralysis in 2010 while playing for Deccan Chargers to becoming one of the finds of this year's IPL, Rahul Sharma's world has turned full circle. Ashutosh Sharma reports.

cricket Updated: May 06, 2011 00:39 IST
Ashutosh Sharma

From being diagnosed with facial nerve paralysis in 2010 while playing for Deccan Chargers to becoming one of the finds of this year's IPL, Rahul Sharma's world has turned full circle.

Sharma has been the lone shining light for Pune Warriors India who have suffered seven straight losses after starting brightly with two wins in a row.

On Wednesday, the tall and lanky spinner from Punjab bowled an inspiring spell of four overs against league leaders Mumbai Indians, giving away seven runs and picking up two wickets. Nine out of 10 times it would have proved to be the match winning performance but Warriors somehow failed to seal the match.

Earlier, he also bowled a stifling spell against Rajasthan Royals, four overs for 13 runs and three wickets, and has added nine wickets to his name so far with an economy rate of 5.27.

In the spell against Mumbai he managed to keep the likes of T Suman and Kieron Pollard quiet. "I had a strategy to bowl wicket to wicket with variations. You can't be predictable in T20," Sharma said upon arriving in Chandigarh ahead of their match against Kings XI Punjab.

Sharma who hails from Jalandhar started as a medium pacer but soon turned to leg spin on his coach insistence. Before the IPL started he spent time honing his skills under Devender Arora, who is also Harbhajan Singh's coach.

"My main focus was on line, length and variations. I also had a chat with Bhajji when he came to Jalandhar and he told me that my strong point is the bounce that I can extract. He told me to keep working on that," Sharma said who was diagnosed with the problem during last years IPL.

Picked as the second spinner in the squad, which already had Murali Kartik, Sharma said he was trying to get into Deccan Chargers before IPL 4 commenced and it was only after he had chat with Yuvraj that he decided to play for Pune.

"Yuvraj played three Ranji matches this season and it was there got to know me. He has been very supporting and has encouraged me a lot. Coach Geoff Marsh and Pravin Amre have also been very supportive," he said.

Sharma's most memorable moment has been the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar and after the match the little master himself walked up to him and congratulated him for his bowling. "He told me that I am bowling at my best. It is the best compliment that one can receive," said Sharma who finished the Ranji season with 16 wickets from six matches.