Just as Shardul Thakur came into the attack on day two of the second Test vs South Africa in Johannesburg, Eric Simons on-air shared that Thakur was so upset at getting out on the final ball of the IPL Final in 2019 which resulted in Chennai Super Kings losing the game, that he adamantly stated after the game ‘I must get better at batting’. That anecdote is typical of the player: he is always desperate to make an impact. Fortunately for Thakur, he’s been doing just that so far in his career.
Shardul Thakur Making An Impact
Without Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah, R Ashwin, and Mohammed Shami, Australia were 311/5 on Day 2 at the Gabba. It was the best batting day of the test match. Thakur came into the attack. As usual, he ran in hard. He got one to rise and beat Tim Paine. Then he got one to rise again and Rohit Sharma gobbled up the catch.
Just like that Thakur broke a big partnership and accounted for the Australian captain. He wasn’t done there either, ensuring India’s nemesis in past overseas tours – the tail wagging – didn’t bother them again, Thakur got rid of the current Australian captain Pat Cummins, as Australia were bowled out for 369 and India stayed within range.
186/6. Nearly 200 runs behind at Australia’s fortress. Many players would choose to go in their shell and look to settle in to build a partnership. Not Thakur. Thakur’s impact was remarkable, he fearlessly blasted an admittedly below-par Mitchell Starc all over the ground, while also getting a few boundaries off the likes of Cummins and Josh Hazlewood. He progressed this attack onto Lyon- finishing with an astonishing 67 in a 123 run partnership with Washington Sundar which carried India to 336.
A major contribution for a test match? Thakur’s contribution wasn’t done there as he picked up four wickets in the second innings, while his counterpart Siraj got his maiden five-fer to ensure Australia didn’t bat India out of the game. What followed was the conclusion of India’s best overseas victory yet.
Pan to few months down the road and Thakur was playing in a full-strength Indian XI at The Oval amidst India’s best opportunity to win a test series in England. But it was also an Indian team that had been bowled out for 78 in the previous Test. Thakur arrived at batting crease with the score at 6/117, and his partner Rishabh Pant, the last recognised batter in the line-up, soon departed.
While India were in a highly precarious situation, this role was built for Thakur- batting with the tail he had the license to play his shots and he did exactly that. Thakur blasted 57 of 36 to ensure India remained in the Test match with a score of 191. All the same, on day two, India were on the verge of being batted out of the Test match with Ollie Pope making an impressive return the English side. But there was Thakur again as an innocuous delivery saw Pope chop one on and Thakur ensured India could limit the damage.
Bouncing back in a Test match after conceding a 100 run lead is not easy. Rohit Sharma’s classy century had India off to a great start, only for a collapse on day four starting with the captain Virat Kohli to leave India one wicket away from most likely conceding a 2-1 lead. Shardul Thakur: The man for the moment. He entered stage left, this time playing a more controlled knock, blocking out the spinners and taking on the pacers. More importantly, he stitched a partnership with Pant of 100 runs, Thakur’s contribution being 60 runs.
Day five and a placid pitch. A draw, at best, or an England win on the cards. The fragile England batting was performing, as they, for once, reached 100 runs unscathed. Kohli looked worried with his team dropping catches. They looked under pressure. Kohli turned to Thakur for an impact. An impact he produced, breaking the century stand and to get rid of Rory Burns. It created an opening for India, one they took full advantage of. The next five wickets fell for 47 runs and England lost the match. Just to ice the cake- Thakur got rid of the English captain India sealed another famous victory.
Throughout the IPL, the all-rounder’s next assignment, Thakur was also Dhoni’s go-to man. He finished with 21 wickets, the fourth highest in the competition and took several important scalps in the second leg, including some handy wickets in the final.
Thakur’s most satisfying impact to date may have been at the Wanderers, however. With an injured Mohammed Siraj bowling ahead of him and so to was Ashwin, who was trying to become the first Indian spinner to notch a wicket at the ground since the 90s. That didn’t faze Thakur. He stuck to his plans to break the threatening partnership between Dean Elgar and Keegan Petersen by removing the South African captain.
He came back to account for Petersen and van der Dussen before lunch, ultimately finishing an intense spell of fast bowling with figures of 7/61. The best bowling figures for an Indian against the Proteas. The feat belongs to Thakur, India’s impact player. If it was ultimately to come in a losing cause, that is to the immense credit of the South African batsmen, who dug in to chase down 240 on the fourth day, with Elgar finishing 96*. Thakur though will surely come again.
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