Nitin Chouhan: Sharma is as tall as Kumble, and also possesses the same weapons in his bowling armoury that Jumbo had.
New Delhi: It's hard to concentrate on anything else when fours and sixes are raining from Virender Sehwag's bat. But amid the mayhem that the Nawab of Najafgarh generated at the Holkar Stadium in Indore, there was one person waiting on the sidelines for his chance to shine.
Having been a part of India's Test and limited-overs squads for the past couple months, Rahul Sharma was given a chance in the fourth ODI and struck early into his maiden international affair. His jubilation was palpable, considering the frustration that would have built up from warming the bench.
Sharma, whose accuracy is one of the virtues of his game, got his first international wicket with a topspinner, which Marlon Samuels tried to cut. There was no sidespin as expected by the batsman, who bottom-edged it onto his stumps. That was also the first of the three wickets Sharma grabbed in his ten-over spell on debut.
If the first one was a topspinner, the second one was a quick leggie which went through the legs of Danza Hyatt, who stretched to reach the pitch of the ball before getting himself in a tangle.
The wicket of Kieron Pollard ignited hopes that Sharma would also join the list of debutants who have had a phenomenal year so far. But a docile Indore surface and a bit of reality check by Andre Russell, who slog-swept the bowler for three sixes, restricted him from joining that club.
It is little wonder that purists of the game have already started comparing Sharma with Anil Kumble, whom he resembles a lot - both in deeds and demeanour. Sharma is as tall as Kumble, and also possesses the same weapons in his bowling armoury that Jumbo had. Whether topspinner or slider, flipper or googly, all the varieties of leg spin bowling that the 24-year-old displayed on Thursday were reminiscent of Kumble.
Sharma came to prominence when playing for Pune Warriors in the fourth edition of the Indian Premier League. Many eyebrows were raised and innumerable questions were asked when, with a first-class tally of 16 wickets in nine matches, Sharma got the selectors' nod ahead of many consistent performers in the domestic circuit.
His performance on Thursday vindicated the selectors' decision, though it can be said that giving Sharma a central contract was perhaps a hasty move.
Sharma, who was diagnosed with a facial nerve dysfunction that affected his vision while playing for Deccan Chargers in the third season of the IPL, has shown from his first outing that if given a chance, he can be another important cog in India's wheel.