Lord Shardul - He is a piece of meme. He can win you matches, only if you are the opposition. Never ever a more dangerous bowler at death - oops, for your own side. Donning No.10! How dare you?
LORD Shardul - He is a piece of meme. He can win you matches even if you are at the brink of a heavy loss. He is your star performer. If nothing is working for you, perhaps LORD Shardul will. And he invariably keeps you in the game. Better batter than Virat? Hell yeah.
This contrast and transformation epitomize the undecipherable magic of Shardul Thakur - a match-winner and a clutch player. Throw him to the deep end, he will come out triumphul. Ask him to bat in front a hostile pace attack, he would perhaps make a mockery out of those bowlers. He is a pitiless absolute in the realm of relative - a divergent figure going through an exciting patch. There is no logic that can explain this phenomenon.
Thus let’s get down to the base to get a hang of it. Because we don’t have a choice anyway.
India vs West Indies, Cuttack, 2019 - Chasing 316, India had found themselves at 286/6 when Virat Kohli was dismissed. The team still needed 30 runs to win in 23 balls with no recognized batter left in the dressing room. Shardul came, Shardul saw and Shardul conquered. Two fours and a gigantic six later, India won the game with almost an over to spare.
He did an encore in the IPL and later followed that up for India in the whites. The story of Gabbatoir has been told so many times to be repeated here but it would have been impossible if not for the Mumbaikar’s first innings half-century. India would have been left dreaming about the Oval heist if not for Shardul unleashing madness with the bat in both the innings.
Even before that, at Trent Bridge, Mohammed Shami played a big role in setting up the English top-order and Jasprit Bumrah was at his imperious best to blow away the tail. The duo accounted for seven wickets to hand India the first-day advantage but the link that connected the two massive efforts had to be Shardul Thakur.
Playing only the third Test of his career, the Mumbaikar got the better of a dangerous-looking Joe Root with a stunning in-ducker before sending all-rounder Ollie Robinson packing for a duck in the same over. That one over nicely complimented the collapse initiated by Shami from which the hosts could never really recover from. Pity that the rain forced the wonderful Test to end as a draw.
Those massive game-changing efforts were what made Thakur such an irresistible option. Be it the IPL 2019 or 2021 where he continuously acted as a partnership-breaker or the England series earlier this year, every time the chips were down and the team in search of a fresh impetus, Thakur arrived to dominate the scene and turned the game on its head. In IPL 2021, Thakur bowled four double-wicket overs to help his side swing the game in their favour. Only Harshal Patel, the purple cap winner, did it more frequently. That should tell you the story.
“His evolution in the Indian cricket landscape in the last couple of years is extraordinary. There is not a moment you’d feel like he is in the comfort zone but he always tries to hustle the batsmen. Sometimes he goes for runs but backs that up with his wicket-taking ability. For me, that is an excellent quality to have,” former India pacer and Mumbai chief selector Salil Ankola told Cricket.com.
Before understanding the evolution of Shardul Thakur, it is paramount to go a decade back when he made his first-class debut for Mumbai on a flat Jaipur deck against Rajasthan. In a game where only first innings could be completed, Thakur bowled 23 overs for 82 runs and returned with only one wicket. That game was a microcosm of his debut season performance and a damning indictment of Mumbai’s fragility that year.
It could have been anything worse than that but the Palghar boy kept on growing. The subsequent season yielded him 27 and 57 wickets respectively and he emerged as one of Mumbai’s biggest hopes in the period of transition. However, one thing was always clear - the hard-working pacer had to push the limit everytime he is on the field and nothing could make up for his perceived limited talent.
So often in sports, the words like belief and determination are used to talk about anything merely good but never more it is apt than in Thakur’s case. His self-belief and the attitude to stay in the game has ensured a world of possibilities which he can only control. When a bowler go for runs, invariably intensity drops down in the next over but for Thakur, it was only a reason to stay in the game.
He comes back stronger and the resultant return is in the same ballpark as that of any great bowler or batter. For any professional sports teams around the world, this is a nice-to-have attribute from any player. It is that fearlessness rooted in an ignorance of failure that helps his captain rely on him even on a bad.
It ends up making a show of a complete indescribable magic - the phenomenon named LORD Shardul. Perhaps it is better we don’t try to understand it and revel in the magic. Just like his skipper has.
“Tula parat maanla re Thakur! 👏👌”