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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Man who first bowled the doosra

At first,it gives an illusion of a dislocation at the joint as Rajkumar Sharma starts rotating his wrist to a full 360 degrees.

Written by Daksh Panwar | New Delhi | January 26, 2009 11:03:48 pm

After NCA credits Rajkumar Sharma with the feat,the former off-spinner recalls how he mastered the wrong ’un

At first,it gives an illusion of a dislocation at the joint as Rajkumar Sharma starts rotating his wrist to a full 360 degrees. However,there are no traces of pain on his face,just a smile,reassuring the onlooker that everything is fine.

His claim to fame,though,isn’t his medical condition — referred to as hypermobility of joints. A former Ranji cricketer of the 80s and now a Level Two coach,Sharma has recently been dubbed by the National Cricket Academy (NCA),as “perhaps the first recorded doosra bowler in the history of cricket”.

While the NCA apparently forgot to factor in West Indian off-spinner Sonny Ramadhin,who used to bamboozle batsmen by turning the ball both ways in the 50s,Sharma may well be the first of the tribe to have mastered the wrong ’un without bending his arm.

“I was at the NCA,Bangalore,recently to attend a spin bowling clinic,” says Sharma. “The bio-mechanic expert there,Dr Rene Ferdinands,claimed it was impossible to bowl a doosra with a straight arm. I said I could do it,and I showed him how. He was amazed. Since I’d played before Saqlain (Mushtaq) or Murali(tharan),the NCA concluded I was the first one to bowl the doosra,” he says,but quickly issues a disclaimer: “I am not sure of it,though.”

Describing how he does it,Sharma explains his extra-flexible wrist allows him to release the ball with the back of his hand towards the batsman. The result is a big turning “leg-cutter” (his term for the doosra). “Since there’s no bending of the arm whatsoever,it is virtually impossible for a batsman to pick.”

Big scalp
Sometimes,for even the best of them,he claims.

“It was ahead of the India-West Indies Test in Kanpur in 1983. I used to be at the sports hostel there and got a chance to bowl to Sunil Gavaskar at the nets. After a few off-breaks,I sent down the wrong ’un. He was beaten completely and the ball crashed into the stumps,” Sharma recalls. Was there a word of appreciation from the great man? “Unfortunately not. He probably thought it came off a crack.”

A year later he shifted base to the Capital and,coincidentally,it was during one such net sessions that he got his big break. “Despite the talent and the performance,I wasn’t heading anywhere. Then I got to bowl to Surinder Khanna at the Delhi team’s practice session. He was a big player and had a reputation of belting the off-spinners. I got him out a couple of times. He praised me and it helped me make the Ranji squad.”

However,with the Delhi team bursting at the seams with quality bowlers — both pacers and spinners — opportunities to showcase the talent were few. “Perhaps I was born at the wrong time. Delhi had fast bowlers like Manoj Prabhakar,Atul Wassan and Sanjeev Sharma while in spin,there was Maninder Singh,best in India at the time. Kirti Azad was the all-rounder who used to bowl more than handy off-spin. So there was hardly any slot. Pure hard luck,” he laments.

Turning coach
In 1992,Sharma went to Bangladesh to play in the professional league and subsequently started coaching there. He returned to the country in 1997 and started his own academy. There’s another wrong ‘un of sorts as his most famous ward happens to be a batsman — Virat Kohli.

“It’s ironic. Virat might not be a spinner,but he’s very good batsman of spin. Unfortunately he isn’t in the team for Sri Lanka this time,but last year it was he who first stepped out and hit Ajantha Mendis to show others the way,” says Sharma,also a Delhi selector.

Nonetheless,he doesn’t hide his inclination to groom spinners,preferably those with special abilities. “The NCA said they would now scout for people with flexible wrists and to develop them into spinners. They want me to help them in the cause. I am game.”

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