In an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, Thakur said he couldn't make an impact as a batsman during the initial phase of his career. But an ankle injury in 2019 made him realize the importance of scoring runs in the lower middle-order.
"When I injured my ankle two years ago, it was decided that I need to take my batting seriously. I had the ability in me and going ahead I wanted to contribute in the lower order. I told myself, kuch bhi ho jaye, batting mein acha karna he padega. In the past, there were opportunities which came with the bat too but somehow, I couldn’t make an impact. I told myself ‘aisa nahi chalega.’"
The Palghar cricketer said that following his return to the Indian team, he started practice against throw down specialists Raghu and Nuwan. While he struggled to cope with their pace initially, he improved his footwork gradually to get used to the speed.
"Lower order-batsman contributing always helps, and there have been many instances where 40-50 runs make a huge difference. When I made my comeback in the Indian team, I practiced with our throw down specialists Raghu and Nuwan – they are very quick. Initially, I wasn’t able to play them. I tried to improve my footwork when I faced them and slowly-slowly my batting improved. The more I played them the more I got adjusted to the pace. Whatever runs I have scored so far, there has been a process that I have followed, it’s not a coincidence or stroke of luck."
Thakur has already made three significant contributions in the longest format in his four-match career. The right-hander scored a crucial 67 in the first innings in Brisbane against Australia earlier this year before chipping in with a couple of half-centuries in India's latest win over England at the Oval.
I don’t think too much when I walk out to bat: Shardul Thakur
"There have been people from the Indian team management, Virat, Rohit, who kept on motivating me. They all said that whenever I bat, I should think the way batsmen think."
"Once I was in Mahi bhai’s (Mahendra Singh Dhoni) room and holding his bat. He told that my batting grip is too high and I need to hold it lower to get better control over the shot. Now I hold my bat there and it helps," Thakur added.
Shardul Thakur's blistering knock of 57 (off 36 balls) during the 1st innings of the Oval Test came at a time when India were reeling at 127/7. His whirlwind display lifted the total to 191 and it is fair to say his innings kept the tourists in the game.
When asked about his thought process when he came into bat, Thakur said he looks to keep things simple and play with the straight bat. According to the right-hander, hitting the ball straight enables him to play cross-batted shots during the later stages of his innings.
"I don’t think too much when I walk out to bat. I just keep things simple. Since my school days, my coach (Dinesh) Lad sir used to tell me that the more we think, the more things get complicated. So just try to play straight. For the past five years I have tried to simplify my batting. There are small things I want to follow, like try to be in good position when I’m playing my shot. The more one plays straight, going ahead in the innings, playing cross batted shots become easier."
Thakur also added:
"When I went out to bat early, I knew there was a tricky situation. I look at the scoreboard and try to read match situation. I try to read the fielders kept for me. If the situation demands that I need to stick there, I will try to do that. However, in [the] first innings (at the Oval), when I scored a half-century, I wasn’t playing my strokes as long as Rishabh Pant was there with me. I was trying to tap and take singles here and there. Once Rishabh got out, I told myself that runs are important. I didn’t know how much we will survive. I felt that attacking is the best option and somewhere there was a feeling that I was connecting well. So I just went by with it."
ALSO READArticle Continues below
Shardul Thakur backed up his 57 with yet another crucial half-century (60) in the second innings. He also claimed three crucial wickets, including that of Joe Root on the final afternoon as the visitors thumped England by 157 runs.