Leg-spinner Rahul Sharma hoping to make up for lost time

The lanky Rahul Sharma played in the Indian Premier League in 2014 for Delhi Daredevils and was also a part of the Chennai Super Kings squad in 2015.

Rahul Sharma's progress has been hit by a back and shoulder injury. He, however, hopes to play Ranji Trophy in the near future. (File Photo)   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

Sporting a blue blazer and an uncertain look, Rahul Sharma walked into an arena full of lights amid better-known sporting stars around at the Australian High Commission in New Delhi

The spotlight wasn't on him as much as the Indian hockey team members — P. R. Sreejesh, Rupinder Pal Singh, Harmanpreet Singh, and Hardik Singh — at the launch of Musashi, a sports nutrition brand. After all, the lanky leg-spinner hadn't played any elite-level competitive match in five years due to injuries. He played in the Indian Premier League in 2014 for Delhi Daredevils and was also a part of the Chennai Super Kings squad in 2015, but disappeared from the scene thereafter.

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“I had a back and a shoulder injury. I was with Chennai Super Kings in the IPL in 2015, but couldn't play any match due to injury. What I used to do was if I was injured, I would be back to play without totally recovering. Then again, I would be injured,” he told Sportstar.

The result? His bowling suffered. As a spinner in the classical mould, albeit not a huge turner, he needed strength in his back and his arm, besides the wrist. “It affected my bowling — my rhythm and my action. I got scared that I had a back injury. I was experiencing jerks while walking. I gave myself time of about four or five months to recover from this in Bengaluru[, at the NCA]. I thought, 'I have to be fit first',” he said.

He revealed he played inter-district matches in Punjab regularly in the interim, and has been working with his personal coach, Raghuram Bhatt. “I was playing regularly, but I wasn't able to bowl very much because my bowling had deteriorated a lot all of a sudden. My rhythm was broken. I have got it back now. I'm feeling good now,” he declared.

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He is now in the fray for the Punjab squad for the Ranji Trophy. He expressed optimism but didn't convey it by his expression when he said, “I can play for the team any time soon.” If he does make it to the squad and the final XI even once this season, he will have played his first first-class match since January, 2014. He will have to compete for a spot with the much more established Mayank Markande, who like Rahul started getting noticed via his IPL exploits.

For the moment, though, he wasn't prepared to switch domestic sides for better prospects of playing. “I'm playing for Punjab at the moment; I'm not thinking of switching sides right now. Punjab is all right. I've been selected in the probables so I can be selected any time,” he signed off.