Joginder and his journey back to the field

PTI

Joginder Sharma is a born survivor. His comeback to the national scene, after a horrible accident in Delhi, has been phenomenal. N. Sudarshan catches up with the cricketer.

In November 2011, news of India’s ‘Player of the Tournament’ at the ICC Cricket World Cup, Yuvraj Singh, battling a non-malignant tumour in his lung made headlines. Wishes started pouring in and comparisons were made to the now disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong.

Around the same time, another of India’s World Cup winner — the inaugural 2007 T20 World Cup in this case — met with a road accident in the national capital, Delhi. Though reported by the media, the incident understandably didn’t attract many eyeballs. However, it has taken a full year, until his comeback for Haryana in this year’s Ranji Trophy, to realise the extent of the damage the accident had caused and the life threatening nature of it.

“It was horrible. I don’t even want to recollect the accident,” says Joginder Sharma, best remembered for bowling that famous last over in the nerve-wracking final against Pakistan in the T20 World Cup in 2007 which India won. However, after momentary silence, the reluctance gave away and he spoke to Sportstar — during the Ranji Trophy match against Tamil Nadu in Chennai — about the accident, the recovery from it and the way forward.

“It was a major head injury,” Joginder says. “It required a surgery and more than 30 stitches. I was in the ICU for four to five days,” he recounts of the accident, where a vehicle rammed into his car and overturned it.

“The doctors gave me little chance of a comeback but I was hopeful,” he says. “It took close to four months to be back to normal, let alone play.”

The journey back to the cricketing field was no doubt tough, but Joginder was only too eager to return. However, the nature of the accident meant that his coach Ashwini Kumar and physio Amit Tyagi chose to take one step at a time.

“Initially it was a lot about strengthening the muscles through running and spending time at the gym,” says Joginder of the recovery period. “Then I started bowling with a run-up of four to five feet. The daily quota of deliveries started from as low as 15 and it gradually increased.”

He then took part in a couple of tournaments including the one between the under-19 side and the Ranji probables in his home state. Since then he is back playing for his State and inching towards the level that made him one of the pillars of his team not so long ago.

However, for the 29-year-old, more than physical injuries, the mental trauma the whole episode inflicted was bigger. Questions such as ‘will I be able to play a bouncer. What if I get hit on the head’ did cross his mind.

“The nature of head injuries is that anything can happen,” he says. “There were apprehensions when I first made the comeback. But now that the rhythm is back and fitness is getting better, the worries are no longer there.”

Joginder’s first step back to top flight domestic cricket, after being out of it for close to 14 months, was against Uttar Pradesh a month ago. He bowled a total of 45 overs picking up two wickets – a victory of sorts after all the ordeal – and scored a half century too.

An extension of this is exactly what he sets as his next goal, ‘to bowl as many overs as possible.’ “I need to play more matches, domestic ODIs and T20 and bowl more overs,” he says.

However, for all that Joginder might have done in the domestic scene and for all that he might achieve in future, he will forever be remembered for dismissing Misbah-ul-Haq in the final over of that World T20 final. “There are others who have played more matches and done better for the country. Unfortunately, not many among them are remembered but I am,” he says with a smile.

That, however, remains his last international act. Is he hopeful of that changing? “Absolutely,” he says. “I can still make a comeback.”