In the last two tours that India have played, there have been plenty of positives going forward. With a lot of youngsters shining, India's bench strength has proven to be mighty. Among the plenty, Shardul Thakur would certainly be the brightest star.
Prior to the Australian tour in late 2020, Shardul had always blown hot and cold. One of the reasons could have been because he was inconsistent in the playing XI across any format. Shardul played two T20Is, one ODI and one Test during the Australian tour. His performances were decent in the limited-over formats, but his big break came during the Gabba Test.
Shardul was playing for the second time in whites for India. He was one of the bowlers among the alpha-less pack in the fourth Test. After scoring a crucial half-century, Shardul's confidence was afloat and it was visible in his bowling as well. He bagged seven wickets in that match, three in the first innings and four in the second.
Prior to the Gabba Test, Shardul had played a lone five-day international match against West Indies in 2018 when he had bowled only 10 deliveries. Even though he hadn’t played red-ball cricket for India for nearly two and a half years, Shardul had never given up.
In fact, in one of his interviews to Indian Express he mentioned as to how he kept himself motivated: “For me it was ab agla mauka kab aayega? The wait between two Tests has changed me as a person. There were two options, either I crib and say, yaar yeh agla mauka kab aayega or just go there and keep working. Keep working was the only option. My father is a farmer and all our life we are taught to keep trying. Keep working hard, keep pushing. Agar ek saal kheti kharaab ho jayega iska matlab yeh nahi ke next time I won’t do farming. Same is in cricket, I will again try.”
In this interview, he further added on how coach Ravi Shastri helped him in this long gap: “When I spoke to Ravi bhai (Shastri) one day. I asked him that sometimes I get only one game per series, I always feel pressure on me when I play. What should I do? He replied, if you see this opportunity as pressure, then you will certainly feel pressure. But if you feel that you want to win, then except the game pressure, there won’t be any add-on pressure”.
Post the Gabba Test, Thakur has been reaping in confidence. Even though he didn’t get a chance in the four-match Test series against England, Shardul proved to be a very vital player in the limited-overs format.
A MERITORIOUS OUTCOME
As is always the case with good players, all it takes is one match to gain confidence. In Shardul’s career, the Gabba Test was the one. In both, the T20Is and the ODIs against England, Shardul was the highest wicket-taker, accounting for eight dismissals in the T20I series and seven in the ODIs that followed.
Shardul played each of the eight limited-overs matches and was among the wickets in five of those. The fascinating part is that India won each of those five matches. The three contests in which he failed to take a wicket, India lost. Such was Shardul's impact in the white-ball series wins for India.
If we decode further on the impact created by him, there is a reason behind India winning matches when Shardul was among the wickets. Out of the 15 wickets he bagged in the aforementioned limited-overs tour, only three times did he dismiss a lower-order batsman. Rest of his wickets came against top-order batsmen and at crucial junctures as well. Eight of those 15 wickets were against batsmen who had scored 20+ runs in the innings. To add to that, in this tour, Shardul delivered a double-wicket over thrice, twice in the T20Is and once in the ODIs.
It is not only about his bowling though as the valiant contributions that he provides with the bat is an indication of how confident he has been after that knock of 67 in the fourth Test in Brisbane. Overall, Shardul looks a complete player now, especially with the ability to contribute as a batter as well. Considering the tours after the IPL, he undeniably is a valuable asset across formats, more so in the limited-over versions.
(Image Courtesy – BCCI)