Shivam Sharma grabs his ticket out of obscurity
Last July during his first major coaching assignment, Sanjay Bangar, the Kings XI Punjab head coach, and three other experts spent three weeks with 20 talented youngsters at the National Cricket Academy in Bangalore. It was a camp for those who had impressed in the previous season's domestic Under-19 competition but were no more eligible to compete at the junior level.
Shivam Sharma, the little-known allrounder who made his debut for Kings XI on Friday, was one of them. Shivam had a superb junior record in that season, with a batting average of 82 and bowling average of 20, besides captaining Delhi Under-19.
Most of the other players from that camp in Bangalore went on to play in the 2013-14 Ranji Trophy. But thanks to a chaotic selection policy in Delhi cricket, Shivam wasn't even picked in the Ranji probables or in the Delhi Under-25 side.
While Shivam was disheartened due to the lack of recognition, Bangar had marked him as one for the future. As a result, despite Shivam having only played Delhi club cricket all through the previous season, Bangar called him for a Kings XI selection trial in Chandigarh.
"That camp has been a turning point in his cricketing journey so far," Naresh Jain, Shivam 's coach, told ESPNcricinfo a day after Shivam marked his IPL debut with the prize scalps of Yuvraj Singh and Albie Morkel. "Having been sidelined from the bigger assignments for no fault of his, Shivam was very disappointed, but the Kings XI selection trials gave him the much-needed confidence that he was as good as anyone else of his age."
Hailing from a lower middle-class family in Delhi, Shivam has been training in the Vidya Jain Cricket Academy in the north-western suburb of Rohini. Jain was coach of Shivam's school and has been mentoring him since then. Jain stresses that Shivam is "a genuine allrounder". "You cannot conclude whether he is a better batsman or a bowler. He is special," Jain said. "He has a great ability to read the game and is a natural leader."
After Shivam was picked up by Kings XI Punjab for his base price of Rs 10 lakh, Jain was constantly reminding his favourite ward to be patient. "Not that he needed to be told but we were just discussing that he needed to wait for the first opportunity to showcase his talent."
When the opportunity came, it was against one of the most destructive batting line-up, the Royal Challengers Bangalore. That too at one of the smallest grounds in India, which is not known to assist spin. But Shivam first foxed Yuvraj with a classical offspinner's dismissal - forcing a left-hander to edge one that goes away from him straight into slips - and then enticed Morkel into a false stroke to finish with notable figures of 4-0-26-2.
"You have seen how clean his action is and how skilful he can be with the ball. I am sure he will show his prowess with the bat in the coming days. Let's hope he gets an opportunity to show his worth."
Amol Karhadkar is a correspondent at ESPNcricinfo