There is always something special in cricketers who come from Mumbai. The talent, the skillset. Above all, the ‘Khadoos‘ attitude. With Shardul Thakur it’s a bit different.
Thakur isn’t the most talented of the cricketers you’ll have seen. He doesn’t play the gorgeous straight drives, the textbook cover drives, or the wristy flicks. He isn’t built like a dream fast bowler either.
But, well, his attitude makes him stand out. The success which has come after decades of handwork has made Shardul Thakur much-vaunted ‘all-rounder’ in the Indian side. A man in the eleven.
Surely, there are better bowlers than him, there are many better lower-order batters than him, but there seem to be a surprising death in Indian cricket – where millions wish for a spot in the eleven – of players who can bowl pace and bat as well.
That eye-catching attitude was on show when Shardul Thakur dismissed Cheteshwar Pujara in the 2016 Ranji Trophy final with what many have described as an “unplayable” delivery. Shardul Thakur, who started as a hit-the-deck pace and learned to swing the ball by pitching it up, had Pujara in a tangle then with a ball that lifted from length.
He recently picked a historic 7-wicket haul in Johannesburg where the wickets came from both length and when pitched up. He’s known as ‘Beefy’ (after Sir Ian Botham) in the dressing room. Though he isn’t as gifted as Botham was, Thakur has paved a way for himself ever since he took up cricket.
Shardul Thakur hails from the small town of Palgarh, which is about 80 Km away from Mumbai. As a child, he used to carry his kit bag in the local train for his journey, before he started living at the house of his coach Dinesh Lad.
It is often recalled by commentators that the journey in the local trains are the true making of a Mumbai cricketer, where they become the ‘Khadoos’, the attitude that is needed to battle the hardships of cricket on the field.
While Mumbai won the 2012-13 season, Thakur couldn’t make a mark in his debut season with just 4 wickets in 4 matches. Told that he was of extra weight – at one time his weight was 83 kg when Zaheer Khan asked him to lose weight and get fit – Shardul returned the next season weighing 13 Kgs lesser.
The effect of his hard work was reflected on the field: Thakur snapped up 27 wickets in 6 games in his next season; he tore through in the 2014-15 season, taking 48 wickets at 20.81 which included five 5-wicket hauls.
Thakur’s knack for turning up at the big events is was first observed in the Ranji final of 2015/16 took 8 wickets in the final, including that of Pujara.
By that time, his IPL journey had also taken a flight. From playing just 1 match in 3 seasons with Kings XI Punjab, he became a regular for Rising Pune Supergiant where he impressed MS Dhoni and Stephen Fleming who got him to the Chennai Super Kings.
And, well, then, rest is history. He made his debut across formats and has been an instrumental part of most of India’s victories since the start of last year. From a not-so-talented pacer who could smack a few with the bat, Shardul Thakur became the ‘Lord’.
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