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During one such game, a local coach spotted the 16-year-old with a fast bowler's physique and convinced him to give cricket a shot. Sharath agreed to join the Vidyaranya Cricket Club at Mandya where he also enrolled as a college student. Mandya is five kilometres from Hosagavi and there were days when Sharath had to walk back home because classes, followed by cricket practice and then a session in the gymnasium resulted in him missing the 6.45 pm bus, the last on that particular route.
There wasn't too much money to go around in the household as Sharath's father Shivalingaiah, an autorickshaw driver in Bangalore, struggled to make both ends meet.
After Vinay Kumar and Abhimanyu Mithun both pulled out injured, Sharath was fast-tracked into the playing eleven. On Saturday, Sharath, now 19, started his Ranji career in spectacular fashion with a five-wicket haul on his first-class debut for Karnataka against Uttar Pradesh at the Bhamashah Stadium in Meerut.
Karnataka elected to field on a wicket which helped fast bowlers generate sufficient movement and Uttar Pradesh were reduced to 40 for four. Sharath generated outswing to the right-handed batsmen and southpaws Ali Murtaza, opening the innings in place of injured Tanmay Srivastava, and Suresh Raina were beaten by deliveries that angled back into them. Parvinder Singh was dismissed by Sharath's away-moving delivery. In his first eight overs of Ranji cricket, Sharath had three wickets. At the other end captain Stuart Binny sent back Mukul Dagar, the opener who came into this game with back-to-back centuries.
It took the experience of Mohammad Kaif, a veteran of 125 first class games, to quell the charge of debutant Sharath. Coming out in the fourth over, Kaif was dismissed only in the second-last over of the day for 122. In his five-hour and 16-minute stay at the wicket, Kaif didn't play a single false stroke.
Kaif countered Sharath's out-swinger, by either leaving the ball or offering the full face of the bat. When Sharath bent his back and used his height to generate unsettling bounce, Kaif went on the backfoot and played late or pulled with confidence. His first 50 runs came off 136 balls, while the next fifty took just 70 balls as Kaif upped the scoring rate in the final session.
Arish Alam and Bhuvneswar Kumar, batsmen Sharath dismissed to complete his five-wicket haul, partnered Kaif in his fightback and so did Piyush Chawla, brilliantly caught by Manish Pandey at long-on. Uttar Pradesh finished the day at 273 for nine, thanks to mainly Kaif's determined innings.
"Sharath bowled a good line and length and generated bounce. For someone who is making his debut he had great control," said Kaif, who reckoned that the young Karnataka medium-pacer touched speeds of just less than 135 kmph.
Brief scores: Uttar Pradesh 273 for nine in 90 overs (M Kaif 122, Bhuvneshwar Kumar 32; HS Sharath five for 60, KP Appanna two for 56) vs Karnataka