By Khurram Habib
New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) Sachin Tendulkar, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan were still part of the Mumbai squad when pace bowler Shardul Thakur made his debut in Ranji Trophy first-class cricket in Jaipur over eight years ago.
The three India international stars did not travel for the games against Rajasthan to Jaipur that season after having played Mumbai’s first match at the Wankhede Stadium against Railways.
Tendulkar and Zaheer had to join the India squad that was to play England in the home Test series.
Thakur couldn’t grab the chance he got with both hands. In the Jaipur game, captained by his schoolmate and now India Test opener Rohit Sharma, he picked up just one wicket. In the next, he couldn’t pick up any and was subsequently dropped.
Mumbai brought him back later in the season for the semi-finals and the three-wicket haul against a weak Services side was his only further success.
Mumbai, however, kept faith in him for the next season and he delivered, returning as the second highest wicket-taker for his team with 27 scalps. He has never looked back since, chipping in with batting performances as well.
After eight years of toil at the first-class level, which also saw a failed Test appearance in October, 2018 against the West Indies when he limped off after bowling just 10 deliveries, Thakur has finally made it big.
On Monday, he became the first player to pick up seven or more wickets and score a fifty against Australia in Australia after Dale Steyn at Melbourne in 2008. A 67 in the first innings and a match-haul of 7/155.
“There was a time few years back, when he had become quite bulky and started bowling wayward. I told him to do running on the sand. I told him, you have a beach near your place. Why don’t you run there. He began working on his fitness after that. There was also a time when he was disappointed at not being given a chance for Kings XI Punjab in IPL. But I told him to stay calm and look at the positive side. You are getting to practice at the top level,” Dinesh Lad, who coached him and Rohit Sharma at their Mumbai school, told IANS.
Lad has been in touch with his ward, and told him to go for a five-wicket haul in the second innings. Thakur finished with four but his overall performance is good enough to make him a contender for man of the match award if the game ends in a draw or an India win.
“What you are seeing is the experience gained through domestic grind. Domestic cricket helps players to develop temperament. Patience is needed and that is what you saw,” said Lad.
While his bowling has been exemplary, the shots he has played while batting have been as good as any top batsman has played. In fact, in many cases they have been better.
Thakur played a hook to get off the mark on Sunday. He then hit a perfect cover drive.
“He plays straight. And that has come through practice in early years at the cemented wicket we have at school. Even before this season’s IPL, he had 2-3 sessions at the school. At international level, most of the wickets have true and certain bounce and that is where the cemented surface has helped,” added Lad.
Thakur on Monday picked up the wickets of Marcus Harris, Cameron Green, Tim Paine and Nathan Lyon.
He was in line for a fifer but narrowly missed it.
By Khurram Habib