New Delhi: Sanjeev Sharma is a fantastic raconteur with an amazing ability to laugh at himself. The only Indian to record a five-wicket haul at Sharjah, the 54-year-old former Delhi medium pacer tickled the funny bone with a straight face while recollecting his three seasons with the Indian team from 1988 to 90.
Many remember Sharma as the unlucky man, who could have dismissed Graham Gooch cheaply in the 1990 Lord's Test when Kiran More dropped a regulation catch. Gooch scored 333 and 123 in a comprehensive English victory.
Sharma never played a Test match after that. "It's part and parcel of the game. Who knows if Kiran had taken that catch, my Test career would have been different. But let me tell you, I was the top scorer in Indian second innings with 38.
More than Sachin Tendulkar, Dilip Vengsarkar, Mohammed Azharuddin and Sanjay Manjrekar. How about that," he said, knowing well that it could invoke laughter. His best moment in a career of two Tests and 23 ODIs came when he picked 5 for 26 against the West Indies in Sharjah back in 1988. He didn't get the Man-of-the-Match award, though.
"Yeah, that's okay. Because Chika bhai (Krishnamachari Srikkanth) got a hundred against Patrick Patterson, Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose and Winston Benjamin. I remember the adjudicator was Tony Lewis and even before the game ended, it was announced that Srikkanth had won the award."
The funniest stories are from the tour of West Indies under Dilip Vengsarkar's captaincy in 1989. "I don't remember the airport, either in Kingston (Jamaica) or Port Of Spain (Trinidad & Tobago). We had just landed and there were porters around putting our luggage in a trolley.
Now West Indians are chatty lot and wouldn't mind striking up a conversation," he said. It went something like this. "'Hey Maan, who are the fast bowlers in this Indian team'?," the porter asked Sharma. "Kapil Dev, Chetan Sharma and Sanjeev Sharma was my reply as he obviously didn't know me," he said. Then came the killer line.
"'Kaaapil I know but who are the other fast bowlers. I am not asking you about off-spinners maan'," Sharma chuckled recalling the chat that is still fresh in his memory. For Sharma that tour was about Ian Bishop's bowling. "I can tell you that in the late 80s and early 90s, I don't think there was anyone quicker than Ian Bishop in that particular phase. He was frighteningly quick. And my experience was at a different level."