A few minutes after winning his first India T20 cap,Rahul Sharma was asked to man the extra cover fence. The tall lad took a few blinks to adjust his vision to the glaring lights of the Olympic Stadium,and got ready to latch onto anything that came his direction. Three balls into his stay at the boundary ropes,a Ravichandran Ashwin delivery sailed high over his 6’4” frame.
With the most audacious of sixes of the decade,David Warner had ensured that whatever unfolds over the night,Sharma wouldn’t come off looking like the worst bowler,a debutant’s nightmare. At that point,he hadn’t even bowled a ball. As replays of Warner’s switch-hit six continued to play on loop five overs after it was hit and four since he was dismissed,Sharma handed his cap over to the umpire.
He began his over with a terrific straighter one to Travis Birt,one that the batsman missed completely. The crowds,watching Warner on the big screens,probably missed it too. Two balls later,Birt was deceived by the trajectory and powelled a return missile straight back at Sharma. Bowled slightly faster through the air,the leg-spinner had taken away a fraction of his own reflex time,and the leather tore into the webbing of his bowling hand the best bowling hand that India would have on the damp Sydney night.
As blotches of blood stained the pitch below,Sharma left the field for what seemed like his first and last stint on an Australian cricket field this summer. But for a man who fought off Bell’s Palsy,a dysfunction of the facial nerve that results in temporary paralysis,a torn webbing was just another scratch.
With a heavily bandaged hand,the 25-year old from Punjab returned to not only put on display the mettle he was made up of,but also prove why he deserved the chances that Ashwin was getting in the limited-over game. He mixed his lines well and struck that perfect length on a coin every single time,something that the lead off-spinner has been consistently failing to do.
Element of surprise
The googly,something that most leggies these days use as a stock ball,was flicked out of his wrist purely for surprise. Given the duty of bowling the last over of the innings,Sharma set George Bailey up for the wrong un,and would’ve dismissed him too if not for that wretched taping over his newly found injury. Bailey survived to tell the tale,and he told plenty of good things about Sharma.
“It was tough to adjust to that length,and scoring in the last over became very difficult,” said Australia’s new T20 captain. “I would have liked to have got a few boundaries at the end,but even David Hussey was kept quiet. And he is one of the cleanest hitters of a cricket ball anywhere in the world.”
Hussey proved that by destroying Sharma’s figures right at the end with a massive six over long-on. But he also made the evening a special one for Sharma by playing all around a ball that didn’t turn much. Sharma got his first T20 wicket off the penultimate ball,and pushed for the lead spinner’s role in just his second T20 international game.