Indian Premier League 2011 May 6, 2011

Rahul Sharma benefits from Harbhajan tips

ESPNcricinfo staff

Rahul Sharma, the Punjab and Pune Warriors legspinner, has been one of the most-improved performers in this IPL. Last season, he took just five wickets and went at 8.08 an over in the six matches he played for Deccan Chargers. This year, after switching to Pune Warriors, he has already taken 11 wickets and his economy rate of 5.27 is the best among all bowlers who have bowled more than 10 overs. He attributed some of his success to advice he received from fellow Punjab spinner Harbhajan Singh.

"I had a chat with Bhajji when he came to Jalandhar and he told me that my strong point is the bounce I can extract," Rahul, who is more than six-feet tall, told the Hindustan Times. "He told me to keep working on that."

Rahul received similar advice from his Punjab coach Bhupinder Singh. "I have advised him to hit the pitch so that he gets bounce," Singh said. "He is very similar to Anil Kumble and can be groomed to be a good limited edition bowler."

Apart from extracting bounce, Rahul said what he was also working on was bowling a wicket-to-wicket line, and using as many variations as possible. That strategy worked well for him during Pune's home game against Mumbai Indians in which he had figures of 4-0-7-2, the most economical by any bowler in this IPL. "I had a strategy to bowl wicket to wicket with variations," Rahul said of that performance. "You can't be predictable in Twenty20."

Things did not look good for Rahul after he was diagnosed with Bell's Palsy - a dysfunction of the facial nerve that results in one's inability to control facial muscles and results in temporary paralysis - during the last IPL. Rahul said it affected his vision.

"I was advised complete rest by the doctors," Rahul told the Indian Express. "My vision was hazy and I couldn't move my lips. I knew if I quit, I would miss the opportunity. It was a difficult period of my life. I had to do lots of facial exercises but eventually it was my will power that helped me keep going amid the discomfort."

One of the things that has helped Rahul during this edition of the IPL is the fact that his captain at Pune, Yuvraj Singh, is also from Punjab and had played with Rahul in the 2010-11 Ranji Trophy. "Yuvraj played three Ranji matches this season and it was there he got to know me. He has been very supporting and encouraging. So have the coach Geoff Marsh and assistant coach Praveen Amre.

"On the eve of every match, Marsh and Yuvi paaji brief me on every player and I bowl accordingly. Sometimes, that doesn't work and then I have to think on my feet. I vary the pace a lot and rely heavily on my legspinners. My aim is to be accurate as much as I can and the bounce I purchase from the wicket helps me contain runs,"

Rahul played only one Ranji match in the 2010-11 season, and has featured in nine games since his debut in 2006.

After a few steady performances, Rahul entered the limelight during Pune's first match against Mumbai, at the Wankhede Stadium, in which he dismissed Sachin Tendulkar and went for just 14 runs in his three overs. Rahul said Tendulkar congratulated him after the match. "He told me that I am bowling at my best. It is the best compliment that one can receive."

Pune's next game is against Kings XI Punjab, in Mohali, on Sunday.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on May 6, 2011, 19:08 GMT

    bhajji?lol are bowling better than bhajji...bhajji needs year 6months break to analys his own he cant bowl doosras like b4..and also batsmen now used to that slider he bowls to left handed batsmen..ashwin and this guy sharma bowling lot bettter than bhajji..bhajji needs few tips from ashwin and swann and sharma..and yes abt SPW all they need to do is change captain..yuvi is not great captain..i think after chennai and mumbai and kolkata pune got better sided with number of matchwinners..all they need is to make dada as captain or smith.yuvraj wasting himself and uthappa ..and also guy like ferguson warming bench for 9 matches..change captainnnn

  • Dummy4 on May 6, 2011, 13:08 GMT

    sharu khan, anil kpoor, shalmankhan, redti suman kapoor

  • Shankar on May 6, 2011, 12:54 GMT

    Now all we need is to find a way for Harbhajan to benefit from his own tips!

  • Eshwar on May 6, 2011, 9:40 GMT

    Pune has the armory but lacks strategy and one killer inspirational performance like what Sehwag and Gayle did for their teams which could lift the morale of the team. Anyways it is too late now and presence of Ganguly at this stage of the tournament may not add much value.

  • Cricinfouser on May 6, 2011, 8:43 GMT

    this guy is doing well for pune.even though they are at last place they have a lot of talented guys with them.his way to indian team is now descending.ashwin and rahul sharma are useful for india after the end of bhajji's career.

  • Dummy4 on May 6, 2011, 8:05 GMT

    trueblue there is no harm in taking advise.And for your sarcasm harbhajan has close to 400 test wickets ok no matter how he got them he still has and very few bowlers have that kinda of record am talking of indians.And yeah he has played over 10 years of International cricket so i dont see any harm in him going too bhajji for advise

  • karthik on May 6, 2011, 7:48 GMT

    Hope the young man does well. He will do even better if he stops taking advice from Bhajji! Seriously, Harbhajan of all people?? The guy will forget whatever good he has been doing and start to dart deliveries down the legside, for God's sake.

  • R on May 6, 2011, 7:43 GMT

    Indian spin options for now and future seem to be improving. Apart from Bhajji, Ashwin is a capable spinner. Ojha and Rahul Sharma also look better than options like Amit Mishra & Piyush Chawla. It is the barren cupboard in medium pacers where, apart from Zaheer, India does not possess any decent bowler that should worry the selectors.

  • Ajay on May 6, 2011, 5:55 GMT

    Yeah, Rahul Sharma is bowling very nicely. Had pune shown some improvement in batting, the story would have been different for Pune.

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