Pace bowler Atul Sharma, the Rajasthan Royals rookie has had to sit on the sidelines this IPL season after he suffered a tear in his shoulder whilst fielding in a practice match in Potchefstroom, South Africa, 5 weeks ago.
Atul worked hard and was hoping to attain full fitness for a late entry into the competition, but that now looks unlikely. If everything goes well, he may be fully fit in time for his team's match against Middlesex Panthers, English Twenty20 champions, at Lord's on July 6.
Atul has based his cricket training at the University of Potchefstroom and the North West cricket facility, Senwes Park in Potchefstroom since December. DreamCricket.com caught up with Atul Sharma in Potchefstroom.
DreamCricket: How does it feel to be part of Shane Warne's Rajasthan Royals?
Atul Sharma : It's a great honor to be on the team, to just be in the presence of so many legends - all masters of their craft, just to sit beside them. So much to learn just by watching them play and interact.
DreamCricket: We were eagerly anticipating the debut of India's fastest bowler. How are you dealing with the disappointment of getting injured? It must be really upsetting.
Atul Sharma: Well. The mood remains upbeat. I am just looking forward to getting fit so I can repay Rajasthan's faith in me. My shoulder is strengthening every day. It's annoying it happened when I wasn't even bowling but that's how it goes with injuries. Everyone gets them.
I am fortunate to have met some amazing people who have helped me. My route to the IPL is hardly traditional...
DreamCricket: That I would have to agree with. Your IPL draft was unconventional and different from the time-tested approach of selection in India...
Atul Sharma: The IPL is a fantastic platform for getting talent out of every corner of India. I am not the only player who has been drafted in this manner. IPL has pitched several unknowns against world-class players and that makes the whole event a magnet for fans, TV and media worldwide. Anyone can emerge from this and get a shot at the big time.
DreamCricket: How did it all begin? Tell us about your journey to IPL.
Atul Sharma: It's been a hectic few years. I spent six months at IMG in Florida, then University of North Carolina, back across to MCI training camp in the UK, out to Potchefstroom, home to Mumbai and then out to the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) in Brisbane. My goal was to improve my ability to bowl fast and achieve Olympic level fitness.
DreamCricket: Tell us about your experience at the University of North Carolina.
Atul Sharma: At Noth Carolina I trained with Jeff Gorski, the world Javelin Champion - one of the best and most respected Javelin coaches of the world. I learnt Javelin technique and strength conditioning there.
The two sports that would come close for training in fast bowling would be baseball pitching and javelin throw. Of the two, javelin comes closest to fast bowling in terms of run-up, arm pull and stretch reflex. In consultation with my coach, Ian Pont, we came up with javelin training.
DreamCricket: Does that mean that you bowl like a javelin thrower?
Atul Sharma: To find out, you would have to wait until you have seen me in action. But don't worry - my bowling action been assessed by the Australian Insitiute of Sport, and it is fine.
DreamCricket: Mr. Pont has said that you are built like a power-lifter and a sprinter. Good ground speed, immense power, and a good throwing arm. All the attributes of a fast bowler. How fast have you been bowling?
Atul Sharma: I have been bowling high-90s. 100 mph is not improbable - I have it in me to do that. The whole idea is to bowl accurately and still be very very quick - that has been my mission.
DreamCricket: How did you end up in Florida?
Atul Sharma: There is this academy, I am sure you have heard of it, it is called IMG in Sarasota, FL. They do a lot of sports training - baseball, soccer, football. They have an institute called IMG Academy Athletic & Personal Development programs- Athletic & Personal Development program. I went there for strength and conditioning training. Trained to handle the forces and stresses that go through ones' body while fast bowling. I was at IMG for 6 months.
DreamCricket: You are starting with Twenty20. Do you think you can scale upto ODI and playing test cricket for India?
Atul Sharma: That would be a dream come true. Growing up in India, every kid wants to either join the army or play for India. It would be a great honor if I can get that chance. Fitness wise, yes I can scale up to that level.
DreamCricket: Thanks Atul for talking to us. We wish you a speedy recovery. We hope to see the first USA trained IPL player in action very soon.
Atul Sharma: Thank you.