An 'all-you-can-eat-for-five-pounds' pub in the Cardiff City Centre is bustling with people counting lose change to grab a hot meal and watching - perhaps for the umpteenth time - Mark Taylor score his historic unbeaten 334 against Pakistan at Peshawar in 1998. The footage is repeated often in these parts.

A commercial halts Taylor's charge. The Champions Trophy fills up the screen. It's easy to note that weather-beaten men, who've seen their share of cricket over the years, aren't quite impressed. They'd rather watch Taylor.

Right then, Rohit Sharma - the Indian opener - plays an on-drive as the commercial nears its end. Heads finally move. "What's his name? Sharma? Kohli?" asks an elderly.

It's obvious they've seen Sharma bat, but not enough to know little details. The manner in which men in pubs here raise their eyebrows discussing Sharma shows they're impressed. "He's good," they say, as if enough has been said already.

Sharma is the sort, isn't he? You watch him bat once, and you might want to watch him again. The problem though lies in him being so unsteady that opportunity itself begins to take a walk.

Virat Kohli is popular here among the youngsters who've taken to the game and that's because he has scored more consistently. Sharma's not, except for those who've seen a glimpse of his strokeplay and probably wondered why he's not as popular.

Inconsistency has to be the only reason.

In the Champions Trophy so far, he's been a refreshing change as an opener, living up to MS Dhoni's expectations and more importantly the trust he has in himself.

Dhoni has backed Sharma for maybe the same reasons why the old man in the pub has bothered to raise an eyebrow watching him.

At an average of 31.42 in 86 ODI innings and merely 2,200 runs to show despite getting to bat in the upper-middle-order, may want you to question Dhoni's philosophy in backing the Mumbai player. Talent alone, one might argue, isn't enough if you can't be consistent.

A comparison of this sort immediately puts Kohli in the spotlight - 4,129 runs in 98 innings at an average almost touching 50. Comparisons are a normal trend in any sport, including cricket. Haven't we spent time discussing Tendulkar vs Ganguly vs Dravid vs the rest?

But this Champions Trophy, Sharma hasn't been his usual inconsistent self. Instead, picking on the new ball, he's pulled and cut with impunity to log 135 runs in three matches.

While it is Shikhar Dhawan who's been on a roll, posting hundreds, Sharma has done the needful at the other end, providing the start.

"Whenever we play out of the sub-continent, teams think let's bowl short to the openers and pitch-it up. But if the opener cuts and pulls, they don't really have a back-up plan. Sharma has done that job well for us," says Dhoni of the Mumbai batsman.

In the given team composition, the skipper obviously thinks he's the best choice.

But there's more to what Dhoni thinks of Sharma. "He's really talented, and that's the only space we have got, where we all felt that with his talent he can really capitalise and be a good opener. It's a win-win situation," he says.

It is clear that given Sharma's talent, Dhoni wants to give him a longer rope and it speaks well of the confidence he shares in him.

Putting up bigger scores is something that Team India may eventually ask of him. At the moment though, they'll be content - just like Dhoni - if he can show a bit more consistency.

The old man in the Cardiff pub will certainly make the most of his five-pound meal, watching this talent.

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Keywords:Cardiff City Centre , Mark Taylor,Champions Trophy, Rohit Sharma, Indian opener, MS Dhoni, Tendulkar , Ganguly , Dravid , Shikhar Dhawan,cricket news,sports news