Former Indian off-spinner Sarandeep Singh is of the opinion that the Indian side, led by Virat Kohli, would have ended their eight-year ICC Trophy drought had all-rounder Shardul Thakur been picked in the starting XI for the World Test Championship Final against New Zealand.
India lost the WTC Final to New Zealand by 8 wickets, and team selection came under immense scrutiny post the defeat. The Kohli-led side, despite conditions favoring seamers, had opted for two spinners, and the decision eventually backfired as they ended up being a seamer short in conditions tailor-made for fast bowling.
Sarandeep opined that the conditions in Southampton were ‘ideal’ for Thakur to exploit.
“If he (Thakur) had played in the World Test Championship final (against New Zealand, at Southampton in June), we would have won an ICC trophy for the first time since 2013. His presence in the line-up would’ve given this team a well-deserved ICC title, which is still missing from its cabinet," Sarandeep told TOI.
"Those conditions were ideal for his type of bowling, and he would have added depth to our batting.”
India learnt from their mistake soon, however, and picked Thakur in the first Test against England. He picked four wickets in the game, but the biggest impact he made in the series ended up being with the bat in the fourth Test, where he smashed twin fifties to keep England at bay at The Oval.
Thakur, in the fourth Test, showed that he now is a much-improved batsman, and thus Sarandeep hoped for the selectors to groom the 29-year-old for the 2023 World Cup.
“Start grooming him for the 2023 ODI World Cup. From now on, consider him as an all-rounder. You need a batsman like him at No 7, and he’s a good fielder too. He must consistently feature in the XI in Tests and ODIs, if not the T20Is.
"I know Hardik (Pandya) is a very good batsman, but his bowling is a concern. You don’t know how long (Mohammed) Shami and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) will last, so Shardul and Siraj must now regularly play alongside (Jasprit) Bumrah, as age is with them, and they can be groomed for the future,” the 41-year-old said.
Meanwhile, another former off-spinner Harbhajan Singh asserted that Thakur could solve India’s ‘all-rounder’ problem if he keeps growing in confidence. Harbhajan hoped for team India to play the 29-year-old in SENA countries regularly and insisted that the Mumbaikar could be a lethal force due to his all-round ability,
“See, if he continues to work on his batting and continues to put the hard yards in his bowling, he can solve India’s problem of finding a dependable all-rounder after Kapil Dev. It’s so good to see the way he batted, and it will build his confidence going forward,” Harbhajan said.
"I would like to see him batting at No 8 and scoring runs consistently for Team India, especially in countries like Australia, England, New Zealand and South Africa, where you can’t play two spinners and someone needs to bowl too as your main fast bowler and bat also as your No. 5 to 7 batsmen. Shardul is pretty capable of doing that at No 8, where he can score runs and win games for the team.”