It has been a turbulent past month or so for Shardul Thakur. With the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Deepak Chahar injured, the right-arm pacer has been a regular in the Indian team in white-ball cricket, but his performances have been far from consistent.
The first One-Day International against Australia last month saw Thakur return with forgettable figures of 0/43 in five overs. He was subsequently dropped for the remaining two ODIs in that series, which India went on to win, before being taken back into the playing XI in the New Zealand tour.
India played five T20 Internationals and three ODIs against the Black Caps over the last month and Thakur featured in each of those matches. The 28-year-old had a decent run in the shortest format, picking up a player of the match award as well for his all-round effort in one of the matches, but he was hammered in the one-dayers. He managed to get four wickets in the 28.1 overs that he bowled over the three ODIs but was taken for a mammoth 227 runs.
Shardul Thakur's bowling figures in 2020
|9.1||0||87||1||9.49||ODI v New Zealand||Mount Maunganui|
|10.0||1||60||2||6.00||ODI v New Zealand||Auckland|
|9.0||0||80||1||8.88||ODI v New Zealand||Hamilton|
|4.0||0||38||2||9.50||T20I v New Zealand||Mount Maunganui|
|4.0||0||33||2||8.25||T20I v New Zealand||Wellington|
|3.0||0||21||2||7.00||T20I v New Zealand||Hamilton|
|2.0||0||21||1||10.50||T20I v New Zealand||Auckland|
|3.0||0||44||1||14.66||T20I v New Zealand||Auckland|
|5.0||0||43||0||8.60||ODI v Australia||Mumbai|
|3.0||0||19||2||6.33||T20I v Sri Lanka||Pune|
|4.0||0||23||3||5.75||T20I v Sri Lanka||Indore|
These performances led many to question his place in the Indian team’s set-up, considering the fact that each white-ball game is crucial in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup later this year.
As far as Thakur is concerned, though, it’s all about learning from the experience he gained in New Zealand.
“It is a tough place for bowlers,” he told reporters in Mumbai on Monday at an event organised by Tata Power. “You don’t get to play there every year. The dimensions of each ground out there are different and it can get challenging. I think I did well on the tour. A couple of games were up and down for me but that is okay, as long as I keep learning.”
“Whenever I get the opportunity to play there again, I will make sure I don’t repeat the mistakes I made this time. And I wouldn’t call them mistakes, actually, they are learnings. It was only my first trip to New Zealand. Compared to other bowlers or cricketers, I have not played that many games for India. So I am still in a phase where I am gaining experience and going forward I am sure I will do better,” he added.
Since his international debut in 2017, Thakur has shown the knack of getting breakthroughs, but he also tends to leak boundaries and return with costly figures. Talking about the economy-rate of bowlers in limited-overs games, he made an interesting observation about how he plans his spells.
“It is okay to go for runs,” he said. “One cannot put in an extraordinary performance each time. What I think is that if the opposition’s scoring rate is ten-an-over, for example, then I should aim to keep my economy-rate below eight. That way, I will end up saving a few crucial runs which can help my team win. This is how I keep motivating myself. Again, not every day is the same. These are the challenges we have to face as bowlers, you just have to keep your head high and execute your plans.”
As far as his place in the India XI is concerned, what seems to be working in Thakur’s favour is his ability to bat down the order. India captain Virat Kohli has spoke of the need for having deep batting line-ups in white-ball cricket and that is where Thakur gets his nose ahead. The right-hander has played a couple of important cameos in the past few months and that has added to the value he offers to the team.
“I always believed that I could bat and make useful contributions for the team,” he said. “I have done that in the past whenever I have played for my school, college or domestic team. In international cricket, no matter which position I am batting in, my job is to read the situation and score as many runs as I can.”
Thakur said that he has the back of the team management, too, and that the coaches have been a big help to him in the recent past. “They back me for sure. The coaching staff has been really helpful. They make sure to communicate and give confidence no matter what. They ask me to go all out. We have the freedom to express ourselves on the field, there is no stress about that,” he said.
For the Indian team, as skipper Kohli has also said multiple times, this year is all about building up to the World Cup (apart from the Test championship). India have a few pace options whose comebacks from injuries are imminent but Thakur is very much in the mix as well for the mega event in Australia. And even though his last assignment in national colours didn’t go as per plans, he isn’t deterred.
“I certainly do have my eyes on the T20 World Cup,” said Thakur. “I believe the positivity that I bring to the game, the passion I have for it, and the amount of confidence I have will help the team win the title.”