One of the biggest positives for Team India from the Test series in England has been the performance of all-rounder Shardul Thakur. After chipping in with four wickets in the first Test in Nottingham, Thakur was ruled out of the Lord’s Test due to a hamstring injury. After missing out on the Headingley Test, he was recalled to the side for The Oval encounter and made a fantastic contribution with both bat and ball. So impressive was Thakur at The Oval, some experts even opined that he should have been chosen as the man of the match over centurion Rohit Sharma. Thakur’s success also reopened the age-old debate in Indian cricket, about finding a genuine all-rounder in the Test team.
Shardul Thakur: An impact player
One of the standout aspects of Thakur’s performance at The Oval was his ability to deliver under pressure. Each of his contributions were vital in the end result. On Day 1 of the Test, India had crumbled to 121 for 7. It seemed they would have been bowled out for under 150 but Thakur came in and played a stunning, counter-attacking knock. His half-century not only frustrated England but also took India closer to a somewhat respectable 191.
Thakur picked up only one wicket in England’s first-innings, but it was the big one of top-scorer Ollie Pope (81). Had Pope carried on, England’s lead could have been in the region of 200. In the end, England only managed a lead of 99. When Thakur walked into bat in the second innings, India were again in a spot of bother, having lost three quick wickets. He, however, batted with maturity to post his second fifty of the Test. With the ball as well, it was Thakur who broke open the game for India, ending England’s stubborn opening partnership with beauty to Rory Burns. The pacer later returned to end Joe Root’s resistance as well.
Positive attitude and amazing maturity
Although Thakur has only played a handful of games for India, he has displayed a wonderful attitude and has demonstrated excellent maturity whenever he has got the opportunity to represent the country. Even before The Oval Test, he was brilliant at The Gabba. Team India were forced to play him with no other pacer available. Instead of feeling the pressure, he responded by delivering a match-winning performance. His half-century at the Gabba and his excellent partnership with Washington Sundar changed the course of the Test. Thakur also came up with a wonderful effort with the ball, claiming a total of seven wickets.
He may be new to the international scene but the years of toil on the domestic scene seem to be paying off for Thakur. Having made his first-class debut in 2012, the 29-year-old has been an integral part of the Mumbai Ranji Trophy team. His experience has been evident in crunch situations that he has often found himself in during an eventful international career so far. Thakur’s performance on the big stage only reiterates why nothing can replace the ethics of domestic cricket, the foundation stone of any upcoming player.
Suitable replacement for Hardik Pandya
With Thakur having grabbed his opportunity as an all-rounder in Hardik Pandya’s absence, India must look to groom him as the Baroda cricketer’s replacement in the Test team. Pandya can be looked at as a limited-overs specialist for now and can gradually work on getting his bowling on track again. It is obviously too early to conclude whether Thakur is the answer to India’s seemingly never-ending search for an all-rounder. He needs to work heavily on both his batting and bowling to achieve greater consistency going ahead. But it cannot be denied that Thakur has the attributes to become a match-winning all-rounder for India. The process has been set into action and Thakur’s progress from this point would define his legacy.