Failure, Fight back and Success: The Story of Shardul Thakur
Popularly known as the 'Palghari express', Thakur's journey to the Indian Cricket team has been motivating and inspiring.
Indian Cricket has been in a transition phase for some time now where a number of youngsters are being given an opportunity to fulfil their long living dream of playing for the country. BCCI’s contribution to this process has been invaluable where it has been injecting fresh blood into the team by rewarding players for their performances in the domestic circuit.
When the Indian team tours West Indies in July for a 4 match test series, Shardul Thakur, a young and prominent fast bowler from Maharashtra, could be making his international debut. It’s the hard work and remarkable performances in the domestic circuit that has helped the 24-year-old to earn his spot in the team.
Initial Days and struggle
Shardul Narendra Thakur, born in Palghar Maharashtra, is a right-arm medium fast bowler who represents Mumbai in the domestic circuit. Popularly known as the ‘Palghari express’, his commitment and dedication to the game are reflected from the fact that he used to travel 90 kms daily by train from his hometown in Palghar to Mumbai to play Cricket in his initial days. The desire to learn and excel drove him and helped him survive the initial hardships.
Making his Ranji Trophy debut against Rajasthan in 2012, Thakur had a dismal season where he could manage only 4 wickets in 4 matches. He was also criticized for being ‘overweight’ and could not manage to cement his spot in the team.
Just when one would have thought they he would be lost in growing competition, he made a comeback. A determined Thakur didn’t let the criticism affect his dream. He worked on his bowling and overall fitness while managing to shed 13 kilos of weight to come back stronger and dangerous.
Fight back and Record Performances
Even after a disappointing start to his Cricketing career, the 24-year-old worked hard intensively to achieve his dream of playing for India. He has had the opportunity to be guided by many prominent senior players such as Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan who helped him to grow as a Cricketer over the years.
In the 37 first-class matches that he has played, he has picked up 133 wickets at an average of 27.53 and has been the strike bowler for the Mumbai team for some time now. A natural out-swinger of the Cricket ball, he also has the ability to surprise the batsman by bringing one odd delivery inwards.
In an interview to DNA earlier this year, he was quoted saying, “I am just trying to do my basics right, bowling out-swingers in the corridor and putting batsmen under pressure by not giving them runs and then hitting them with bouncers. I keep them guessing and that is working for me. I hope to continue that way.”
He has a decent bowling speed which ranges around 135-140 kmph and can be lethal in overseas conditions if he is able to play with the swing of the ball.
He also had two back to back scintillating Ranji seasons which gave him the much-deserved attention. In the 2013-2014 season, Thakur managed to pick up 27 wickets in 6 matches at an average of 26.25 which also included a five-wicket haul.
He was even better in the 2014-2015 season where he ended the tournament as the joint highest wicket-taker alongside the star Karnataka bowler Vinay Kumar by picking up 48 wickets which included five 5 wicket hauls.
He continued his good form with a stellar performance in the 2015-2016 season by picking up 41 wickets. He led his team to its 41st Ranji trophy title by picking up 8 wickets against Saurashtra in the final which was nothing short of a dazzling match-winning spell.
Reward for Consistency
His domestic performances did help him in getting an IPL contract where he was picked by Kings XI Punjab. However, he had to warm the bench for most of the season as he didn’t get many opportunities to showcase his talent. He didn’t even get a chance for the Australian tour earlier this year where a lot of youngsters were given the opportunity.
The frustration finally ended when Thakur was named in the 17 member test squad for India’s tour of West Indies later this July. Interestingly, he is the only new name in the squad which will give him the advantage to learn from the experiences of his senior counterparts.
What differentiates Thakur from his competitors is his undying spirit and fighting attitude. In his 4 years long journey and after facing so many obstacles, he still possesses that fire within to deliver his best. He has taken every criticism in his stride and has evolved himself as a dependable Cricketer.
Apart from being a fast bowler, he can also bat decently and can be a great asset to the team in the longer formats of the game.
Thakur credits Zaheer Khan for helping him learn the nuances of test Cricket and helped him modify his game accordingly. It will be interesting and motivating to see him take on the field in the whites representing the country and defying the odds of hardships and struggle.