Want to capitalise on this chance - Rahul Sharma
Legspinner Rahul Sharma, who received his maiden international call-up on Thursday, has said he wants to perform on the field, rather than make big promises. Sharma, along with uncapped Karnataka medium-pacer S Aravind, was named in the 15-man squad for the first two ODIs of the five-match series against England that begins on October 14.
"My aim is to capitalise on the opportunity given to me. I don't want to make big statements," Sharma told Mid-Day. "I have fulfilled my first dream of getting the national call-up. Now, my next goal is to don the India cap and do well for the country. [Being a legspinner] I am not thinking about taking Anil Kumble's place in the team."
His performance for Pune Warriors in IPL 2011 - he claimed 16 wickets and had a miserly economy rate of 5.46 - despite health issues [he has Bell's Palsy, which effects his vision] put him in the national spotlight. However, he said, he did not expect to break into the national side so early. "I didn't expect it [the call-up] to come. It was unbelievable when Parthiv Patel disclosed the news to me."
Sharma said he was disappointed to miss out on working with Harbhajan Singh, who has been India's first choice spinner for a while but was left out from the squad following a run of poor form. "It is an irony that I walk into the team as Bhajji [Harbhajan] goes out," he said. "I wanted to play with him and bowl in tandem with him."
Left-arm fast bowler Aravind, the other new face in the squad, said he had expected to make the national team only next season. "I wasn't expecting the call this year, especially after I missed the Emerging Players Tournament [in Australia in August] due to injury," Aravind said. "After I recovered, I was hoping to do well this [domestic] season and was looking forward to a call next year.
"I am really looking forward to the challenge. I have been really working hard on my bowling ever since I recovered from the injury. I think I am a better bowler than what I was a couple of years back. I hope to get a match and give my best."
Aravind is currently playing in the Champions League T20 with Royal Challengers Bangalore. He had a strong 2010-11 domestic season, leading the attack for Karnataka in the Ranji Trophy and South Zone in the Duleep Trophy. Aravind said he would look to state-mate Vinay Kumar, who is also in the ODI squad, to calm any nerves. "In the Karnataka Ranji side, Vinay plays the role of a mentor to me and [Abhimanyu] Mithun. I'll be getting guidance from him even in the Indian team, and that will help ease the pressure."