“So far, cricket has been unfair to Thakur but if he can stick his hand up and deliver everytime he is called upon, it wouldn’t be long before he gets a much fairer run in the side”.
Indian cricket has an undying, fervent obsession with the no.10 jersey. The Master Blaster had sported this magical number for several years and the number in itself had become synonymous with Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar so much so that when a young debutant from the same city walked out in the same jersey last year in Sri Lanka, fans trolled and bashed him.
Little did Shardul Thakur, the young man in discussion, know that he would be the butt of jokes on social media when he made his ODI debut in the Island Nation after warming the benches for a year since being picked for the first time.
His promising show with the ball had been all but overshadowed by crude, unimpressive tweets on his jersey number. To state Thakur has been unlucky in his short career thus far would be an understatement. He has been undervalued, treated shabbily and carried drinks far too often.
For a fast bowler there is nothing more frustrating than getting picked and then being shunned to the sidelines. The rhythm, zip and spring vanishes the moment you know that you aren’t in the plans for the final XI and it gets difficult to hit the ground running when the opportunity finally presents itself.
For now, Thakur has played three matches, all dead rubbers, and hasn’t quite been able to show what he can do in pressure situations.
“As a player it is more important to perform under pressure because as we keep playing on at higher levels there are bound to be pressure situations. I think this is just a start. If I can take pressure and perform at this level only then can I go higher and perform in the pressure situations. So it is important to perform now,” Thakur had stated on BCCI TV three years back when he was in the midst of a purple patch in Ranji Trophy.
The seamer, who hits a back of a length channel and poses questions with his outswingers and zip through the air, had topped the wicket-taker’s charts in the 2014-15 Ranji Trophy and bowled a cracking spell of 5/26 in the finals of the 2015-16 Ranji Trophy against Saurashtra.
However, he has been given zero chances to showcase what he can do in a pressure situation. That said, as a budding young cricketer it is inevitable that you get used to being a spectator in the dressing room but when the opportunity comes make a mark.
That is exactly what Thakur did at Centurion. The Mumbai seamer, who had been in the sidelines for the first five matches, came into the side for a rested Bhuvneshwar Kumar and made an instant impression with a four wicket haul that included the scalps of Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Farhaan Behardien and Andile Phehlukwayo.
He started off with oomph and nippy pace and had the South African openers hopping in the crease. Although a few looseners were bowled, Thakur hadn’t been fodder to the Proteas opener’s intent. A short ball down leg-side gifted him Hashim Amla’s wicket as the batsman edged the late pull shot to MS Dhoni behind the stumps.
When Aiden Markram smashed another of his short ball over the mid-wicket boundary, Thakur appeared least perturbed. He was bowling with a blueprint in his mind and it soon manifested itself in the form of a slower delivery. The South African skipper and opener backed away and looked to drive over cover only to be deceived by the pace and Shreyas Iyer hung onto a pretty good catch.
Thakur returned to the attack in the 30th over and watched as Jasprit Bumrah broke the adamant fourth wicket stand between Khaya Zondo and Heinrich Klaasen. Soon enough, the Mumbai seamer sent back a hurried Farhaan Behardien who sliced him uppishly to third man. Andile Phehlukwayo took him on for back to back sixes as South Africa were nine down but Thakur remained composed and used the opportunity to unleash a knuckle ball which the Proteas batsman mistimed back to him.
With a four wicket haul, Thakur has finally stamped his presence in International cricket and could be in line for more opportunities as India try to identify their 15 for the World Cup next year. An aggressive bowler with a slew of variations and an ability to constantly chop and change himself according to the demands of the game, Thakur is an alluring prospect.
“Obviously there are a few things that I may be thriving but I also have to realise that there is a process to reach there. I would just rather stay in the present and take each game as it comes and try and take wickets and contribute to the team in whatever little way I can,” Thakur had stated before the South African ODIs.
After the ODI series, he can be relieved that he has grabbed the sole opportunity that has come his way. He can only hope that 2018 presents him with more chances in crunch games. So far, cricket has been unfair to Thakur but if he can stick his hand up and deliver everytime he is called upon, it wouldn’t be long before he gets a much fairer run in the side.