Allround hope rewarded for domestic dominance January 12, 2007

Joginder gets a second chance



Joginder will be especially keen to seize his chance this time © Express photo

Sometime around noon today, Virender Sehwag dismissed Mahesh Rawat and rounded off a thumping win for Delhi over Haryana at Rohtak. Haryana's captain Joginder Sharma had fallen a little while earlier and now had to accept the fact that his team were all but relegated to the Plate Group.

Despite the gloom, it had been a triumphant campaign for Joginder, who sat atop the wickets tally with 39 wickets in seven games, including two ten-wicket hauls and a hat-trick. The 421 runs he'd rattled off in the three Duleep Trophy games that preceded the Ranji Trophy made it a season to remember.

In times when India's search for the 'Next Kapil Dev' is turning into a joke, Joginder's recall to the Indian side, for the first two ODIs against West Indies, offers a sliver of hope. Just a couple of hours after the defeat, Joginder experienced, in his own words, a "rebirth".

Though Joginder himself admits that Kapil is "impossible to replace", the similarities are hard to miss: he's from Haryana (though not yet the Hurricane that Kapil was), swings the ball consistently, blasts his way to hundreds, and brings with him the X-factor that's surprised teams around the country. He hails from a humble background - his father's a paan dealer in Rohtak - and his thoughts on cricket sum up the man: "Cricket gives me immense happiness. I'm fortunate to be one of the few to play cricket for a living."

He's candid about "wasting" his chance two years back, when he was picked for three one-dayers against Bangladesh. He ended with a solitary wicket from the series and his highest score of 29 not out wasn't enough to prevent India's humiliation at Dhaka - their only loss to Bangladesh.

He hails from a humble background - his father's a paan dealer in Rohtak - and his thoughts on cricket sum up the man: "Cricket gives me immense happiness. I'm fortunate to be one of the few to play cricket for a living."

So is there a difference between Jogi 2004 and Jogi 2007? Statistically it's identical. Before he was chosen for India the numbers read: 19 games, 90 wickets at an average of 19, two hundreds and five fifties. The second half of his career is almost a photocopy: 19 games, 94 wickets at 19, two hundreds and four fifties. Yet, Ashwani Kumar, the Haryana coach, talks about how misleading numbers can be, adding that today's Joginder is far more mature cricketer.

"Numbers won't tell you how much he's improved his fitness," Kumar told Cricinfo. "He's a far better fielder now. He also bowls faster than earlier. He continues to swing the ball well but does it with increased pace now. Most bowlers struggle in their second or third seasons but Joginder has improved in some way every year. It's difficult to find a more consistent performer in India.

"Numbers won't tell you what a sensible and responsible batsman he's become. He stays at the crease longer these days and ensures that starts are converted into big ones. He played only three games for India but quickly realised what exactly was needed to be an international cricketer. He spoke to people like John Wright, Zaheer Khan, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid and learnt from it."

Joginder's strength, according to him, is in keeping things simple. "I like to think that cricket is a simple game that requires a lot of skill. I've got my fitness to a level where I can bowl 20 overs day consistently. Earlier I was relying only on swing but now cut the ball and also bowl yorkers and slower balls."

India would ideally want him to succeed at No.7 - swinging out a few early wickets, keeping it tight later and finishing games with cameos. It will allow them to play five bowlers and Joginder could well have a crucial role to play in completing the jigsaw. "Playing in the World Cup is every cricketer's dream and it would be great if I could prove myself to be selected."

Siddhartha Vaidyanathan is staff writer of Cricinfo

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