Shardul Thakur may be a late bloomer in international cricket, but he sure is making up for the lost time. Sometimes breaking onto the international stage in your late twenties benefits the player as he has done the hard yards at the domestic level and knows his game inside out when he reaches the pinnacle of the sport. Something similar has happened to Shardul as he is now looked at as one of the premier all-rounders in Indian cricket.
So how did this boy from Palghar become ‘Lord Beefy Thakur’? Let’s find out.
Shardul was born in Palghar which is roughly 100 kilometres from Mumbai. When he was 14, he used to play cricket for a local school in his area. He grew up playing the sport on matting wickets and had the skill with both bat and ball. In a match against Dinesh Lad’s school, Shardul put scored some handy runs and picked a five-wicket haul. Lad who is a known entity in Mumbai cricket was impressed by Shardul’s all-round skills. So much so that Dinesh convinced his parents to send their child to his school. The only issue was that Dinesh’s school was in Borivali which was a hard commute for Thakur who lived in Palghar, a place two hours away from the school.
Credit to Thakur that he took this challenge head-on and started his cricket career in Mumbai. At one point where Thakur couldn’t have continued travelling for four hours a day, Lad went out of his way to give the boy a room in his own apartment. By then Shardul had already made his name in Mumbai cricket and was a part of the state team.
HARD YARDS AT THE DOMESTIC LEVEL
As he progressed through age-group cricket, Shardul made his Ranji Trophy debut for Mumbai at just 21. Given that he wasn’t genetically gifted with an athletic body or an above-average height, Shardul had to learn his craft the hard way. In just his third season in First-Class cricket, Thakur became the leader of the attack of the Mumbai Ranji team.
The 2014-15 season was the game-changing season for Shardul. He came into the season with improved fitness standards and it showed in his game. Thakur finished at the joint-top of the Ranji Trophy bowling charts with 48 wickets at 20.81. That earned him a call-up to the India A side.
In the same season, he was picked up by Team Punjab in the Indian T20 League. But he only got to play one match for the franchise in his first couple of seasons. The world got to know his story after he won the 2017 qualifier for the Pune franchise in the Indian T20 League. His three-wicket haul in the knockout game helped his team reach the final of the competition. This is where he was recognised as a white-ball bowler and was picked by the national team to make his debut in 2017 itself.
ARRIVAL AT THE INTERNATIONAL STAGE
Shardul was first picked in the ODI squad in the series against Sri Lanka in 2017. He soon became the man with the golden arm in T20 cricket for both his franchise and the national team. Captains started realising the value he brought to the XI with his all-round skills.
But his impact has been noteworthy in Test cricket. This is where Shardul excelled at the international stage. What started on the worst possible note as he had to leave the field on his Test debut just after 1.4 overs due to a groin strain has now transformed into a match-winner for team India.
His impact was first felt at the Gabba as a young Indian team scripted history in Australia and Shardul had a vital contribution to the game with both bat and ball. He continued his midas touch in England and Kohli finally found an all-rounder who was an x-factor in both facets of the game. His maturity with the ball has gone to a whole new level as we witnessed at the Wanderers in the second Test against South Africa and Shardul has a key role to play in this Indian side for the next few years.
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