Chandigarh: Coming from a humble background, the father of young leg-spinner Rahul Sharma, who has been picked in India's squad for next month's ODIs against England, wanted him to pursue academics but is glad that he chose to follow his dreams on the cricket field instead.
The 24-year-old Jalandhar-based bowler can't thank his family enough for the support he got in his days of struggle.
"My dream has always been to play for India and wear the blue jersey. Hard work and perseverance have paid off. Despite odds, I remained focused and that helped," Sharma told PTI.
Sharing the ordeal he went through after suffering facial nerve damage last year, Sharma said, "It was a horrific night. I was sleeping and suddenly I woke up to find right side of my face aching. I could not move my jaw and there was pain. The doctor later told me that my facial nerves had burst."
With his cricketing career at stake, Sharma's grit and determination helped him fight the disorder.
"God has been kind and I have been lucky to have the support of my seniors, my family and friends, which helped me overcome the difficult period of my life," said Sharma, who started under Devender Arora, who has also been off-spinner Harbhajan Singh's coach.
Rahul's father Pradeep Sharma, an Assistant Sub Inspector in Punjab Police, recalled the days of his son's struggle.
"I always used to be after him urging him to study hard (Rahul is currently enrolled for a Masters degree). I never really knew too much about his cricket or what he was doing," he recalled.
"All I knew the boy had great determination to achieve something and never lost his focus. He has been putting hours of practice at Burlton Park Stadium under Jalandhar District Cricket Association," he said.
The family got worried after Rahul's facial nerve damage problem as it could have cut short his dream to become a cricketer.
"God has been really kind. The news of his selection came during the auspicious Navratras and it gave us all the more reason to celebrate," said the cricketer's mother Anju Sharma.
Rahul's younger brother Rohit was the first to break the news of his selection to the family after TV channels flashed it.
Rahul said he was confident of his selection and was "expecting the call" and it was Parthiv Patel, who has been retained by the national selectors in the team, who broke the news to him.
The spinner is currently in Jaipur for the Irani Cup as a member of the Rest of India squad, which is being led by wicketkeeper-batsman Parthiv Patel.
Rahul had recently missed the Emerging Player's Tournament in Australia due to a back injury but he said he was fully fit and eager to justify his selection.
"I am fully fit, which is why I have been picked up for the Irani Cup. Playing against England will be a great challenge and I am eagerly looking forward to it," he said.
The lanky spinner has taken 16 wickets in nine first-class matches. His Twenty20 record is better, having scalped 29 wickets in 28 matches at an economy rate of 6.40.
Rahul had earlier this year grabbed eye balls with his stupendous show in the Indian Premier League playing for Pune Warriors.
He had been a revelation in the IPL as he emerged as the most economical bowler and earned praise from batting icon Sachin Tendulkar.
"While playing in the IPL, Tendulkar had told me that I am bowling at my best. It was the best compliment any player can get," he recalled.