Where Test debuts go, Shardul Thakur has every reason to forget that October day of 2018. He had waited two years for his maiden call-up and when it did eventually come against the visiting West Indies, he lasted just 10 deliveries into the piece. The pacer hobbled off the field with a groin injury and didn’t bowl after that.
Two years later, Thakur has sprung back into reckoning and in all likelihood will be sharing new-ball duties with Jasprit Bumrah against the Australians in the third Test at Sydney starting Thursday.
Season after season, the 29-year-old has bowled his heart out for Mumbai on unhelpful wickets. It’s his ‘fighting attitude’ which has kept him in the news and good books of the selectors.
Former India batsman and national selector Jatin Paranjape, who played four ODIs in the 90s and 62 first-class games, decodes for you where Thakur’s ‘never-say-die’ attitude comes from.
“I know Shardul for a number of years. In Mumbai, he has played his entire cricket after travelling all the way from Palghar. When I used to play for Bombay (Mumbai), I remember that my Mumbai teammates Rajesh Sutar and Nilesh Kulkarni used to come from (far-flung) areas like Palghar and Dombivali. These guys have undergone a tough rigour, travelling for six hours on a daily basis. This ‘slog’ makes these guys mentally very tough. This is where they get their tenacity. After going through that kind of a grind just to get to play cricket, they just don’t want to give up,” explains the 48-year-old.
Considering India’s rich pace stocks these days, few thought he would get to play another Test, but a good show in the limited overs series prompted the Indian team management to ask him to stay back as a net bowler for the Tests even as he was set to leave. Subsequently, Mohammed Shami‘s injury saw him get into the squad.
“When you play international cricket, and particularly when you play Australia – tenacity and fighting spirit, the two qualities he possesses in abundance – trump over talent. He will keep coming at you with the ball and with the bat. He fits into the culture of this team, built by captain Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri. Like this team, he doesn’t give up till the end,” he asserts. “He’s a sort of a ‘bonus’ to the team. He will do something or the other for you,” Paranjape points out.
“Shardul has the experience of four-day cricket, having taken many wickets in domestic cricket. He will form a good combo with Bumrah and (Mohammed) Siraj. If we invest in him in this series, we will reap the rewards in the home series against England, because he will be an even better bowler with the SG ball. To add to his utility, he can chip in with the bat too, which helps a lot when you’re playing five bowlers,” a source in the Indian team management told this paper.
Paranjape too backs Thakur’s inclusion for the SCG Test. “Our fast bowlers have done very well, but none of them has swung the ball till now. Shardul can swing the ball, and because he can do that, I expect that he will be given the new ball. Knowing him, he will keep coming back with the ball at the Aussies. He’s a ghoda (workhorse), who has the stamina to keep bowling fast the whole day. Moreover, he can bat too,” he says.