When one thinks of an all-rounder in the Indian team, the first thought coming to mind is of a spinner who can provide crucial runs. The reason is the history of the game in India. India does not have a rich legacy of fast bowling all-rounders. Barring a few names like the legendary Kapil Dev, Irfan Pathan one would hardly remember any. In tests particularly, India lacked an all-rounder who can bowl quick providing breakthroughs, and score crucial runs with proper cricketing shots. Fortunately, since the last year, after the debut of Shardul Thakur, India found a new fast-bowling all-rounder and it helped the team to gain the correct balance they required.
Coming as a specialist bowler in the side, he surprised everyone with his batting abilities. Initially, he showed his class in limited-overs, with either winning the matches requiring some runs in less number of remaining deliveries or by providing small but quick cameos coming late in the innings. But with time, he began to play more cautiously with controlled aggression. Resultant of which, he was picked ahead of other bowlers due to his all-around abilities.
In limited overs, he did give a glimpse of it. But the most important contribution from him came in red-ball cricket. On his debut at the Gabba, when India was reeling behind in the first innings, Shardul smashed a magnificent half-century, and his innings with Washington Sundar turned the tide in India's favour. He launched an attack on the experienced line-up of Hazelwood and Cummins. Even the commentators were amazed by Shardul's array of shots. Isa Guha was left awestruck with one of his square-cut shots, where she compared the shot to Steve Waugh's square cut.
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Furthermore, in the same test, he scalped 4 crucial wickets in the second innings, taking his tally of 7 wickets in the match overall. In no possible way, he looked like a debutant. His all-around performance helped India set up a total, and also helped to restrict the Aussie scorecard in the second innings. He missed a five-for on debut when he caught the last batsman off Siraj, who went on to get his first five-for. When asked if he was disappointed in missing the five-for, he replied "Not at all, it was important for Siraj to get five-for, knowing what he has been through in the past few weeks ". His selflessness was loved by cricket fans all over the world.
India breached the Australian fortress Gabba, and the Palghar express played a crucial role in the result of the match. He didn't get to play the WTC final, but he played in the England test series post the WTC final, and he made it count. In the Kennington Oval victory, once again Shardul proved his worth by scoring the fifty by the Indian team in the first innings, helping them to a decent 191. In the second innings too, he scored a fifty, and also scarlet the two wickets of set batsmen Rory Burns and Joe Root.
And in the ongoing test match in Wanderers, Lord Shardul, as he is referred by fans, broke many records. Getting a 7-for, he broke the previous record of individual inning best by any Indian bowler in South Africa. Also, these are the best figures in his international career so far. His discipline in bowling yielded him in the wickets. Whenever there was a need to break partnerships, Shardul stepped in. His magical figures restricted the Protea team to a have a lead of 26 runs. He was aggressive with the bowling and was equally humble and calm while raising the ball to the crowd after his heroics.
From Palghar to a household name, Shardul has come a long way. He has made everyone proud. His coach Dinesh Lad must be extremely proud to see his two favourite pupils Rohit Sharma, and Shardul performs at the highest level. Dinesh Lad has a huge role to play in Shardul's career, as he permitted Shardul to reside at his residence, thereby allowing Shardul to get more time to focus on cricket. And results of this are now visible to the world.
The local boy from Mumbai now enjoys a fan following across the globe. Yet he is connected to his roots deeply. His down to earth nature is much talked about, just like his witty side. In one instance, Indians were left baffled to see the pacer travelling in Mumbai local train, after returning from the South African tour in 2019. The images went viral in minutes, as everyone was shocked to see the simplicity of the Indian star. But that's just how he is, extremely talented, yet so down to earth.
A batsman who builds partnerships, and a bowler who breaks partnerships of opposition, Shardul is an asset for the team. He provides the rare sight of India playing with 4 seamers. The flexibility helps India get a better playing eleven. In the ongoing match, Thakur's heroics have helped India, and he still has a role to play with the bat as well as the ball. With Cheteshwar Pujara looking good and scoring run-a-ball innings till now, India is looking in a good position. With Shardul and Ravichandran Ashwin deep down the order, India will have a chance to have a lead of 200, and if they do so, they will have a great chance of winning. Let's hope it happens, and more importantly, let's hope, our very own Palghar express turns out to be one of the finest all-rounders in world cricket by the time he retires.
Authored By:- Ashwin Jangam ( Cricket Analyst, Host and Entertainer)
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