Here’s a kind request to all fans of Indian cricket with regards to Shardul Thakur, the man who again became the talking point against a stern English attack the moment he was picked and given the opportunity.
That we are calling him “Lord” Thakur, perceptibly and passionately out of our respect for him shouldn’t wade off in the light of his poor performances. Why?
For it would look too immature (and unbecoming) of us fans who anyway have attributed to a normal cricketer, not blessed with flair or stunning versatility- but great will- a comparison with gods.
In some ways, if you were to dissect the phrase ‘Lord Thakur,’ it does come off, as a bit of a senile joke or a short-term entertainment-offering resort since for many decades, Tendulkar has been the god. Hasn’t he?
So how come Shardul Thakur - a man with 4 Tests and 15 ODIs been elevated to a lordly status?
One reckons, is there more sense in contending with the fact that one of Borivali’s greatest exports to Indian cricket is better off being brandished as an ordinary cricketer with the gift to do the extraordinary.
What started out anyways as pure sarcasm on part of fans and perhaps Dhoni too - “Sir Jadeja”- ended with the subject of the sobriquet staying true to the nickname awarded to him, not one he asked for.
So tomorrow if Lord Thakur fails to fire for he’s anyway been subjected to a strange selection policy that’s often been unclear about when to pick him and when not to, let us not discourage or throw ire to a genuinely good fella.
A man who puts the team’s need ahead of him and puts to good use his repertoire that cannot be examined from the prism of versatility you’d have otherwise used for a Steve Waugh, Michael Bevan, Carl Hooper, or in more recent times, Thisara Perera and Jason Holder.
There’ll always be talents who’ll try all in their capacity to make the most out of each game for they know the big standard limitation staring at them crassly.
The genuine lack of opportunities extended to them to strut their stuff.
And even as Shardul Thakur, in a limited modicum of time has reflected keenness and adaptability to shine in both Test and white-ball cricket, his successes aren’t dependent on his own talent as such or as much as they are on the matters of when he might play for India next.
Not that he’s willingly dropped. With the sheer expanse of talent available with India, Thakur’s career is shaping up into being that “getaway-from-city-resort,” that’s most remembered when one’s had enough of the clutter of living in urban spaces.
Far too many reasonable hotels with nice offerings in the nearby vicinity!
Think Washington Sundar. Think Krunal Pandya. There’s always Hardik Pandya, even as the flamboyant exhibitor of big-hitting talent and the latest sports car in town isn’t a bowling option nowadays given his injury scuffle.
‘Sir’ Jadeja notwithstanding, somewhere around the mind of selectors someone like Shivam Dube, still going strong in the IPL, could well be hanging in there.
The luxury of being a permanent fixture in an outfit like India is more down to luck and high-level consistent performances than a matter of individual choice, but obviously.
Yet, what’s notable and exciting at the same time is just how good Shardul Thakur comes nearly every time he’s picked and made to feature in a game where India needs to pull off something special.
We will come to the ongoing contest that lingers on Day 5 later.
Let’s revisit his heroics in Australia in the 2019-2020 tour up first.
Just to refresh everyone’s memory, before the Gabba heroics, where the brave and expressive all-rounder had forged a definitive stand with Sundar, contributing 67 of India’s 336 (first innings) runs, he was up to the task with the ball.
Not Siraj, not Saini either - it was Thakur who played his part by removing Harris, Green, and Paine.
While most of us stayed besotted by his cracking boundaries and great use of feat in what clearly was then his finest fifty, who knows the impact of this one against England, what we forgot was how brilliant Thakur was in the third inning at Gabba.
Sorry. But it wasn’t Pant or Pujara alone who helped breach the fortress; had Marcus Harris, Green and Paine (again) not been dislodged from the middle, who knows what total might have India been asked to chase?
What was even more surprising in a sense is that Thakur’s heroics with the bat, outdid his own all-round show in the limited series that was a precursor to the Tests.
As shared earlier that Shardul Thakur’s often been a result - if not a victim - of a very choosy selection policy, it was not too brilliant to note that we played him in just 1 ODI out of 3 though, luckily in 2 T20Is out of the 3-match series.
Yet, in the 3rd ODI, the final contest of the 50-over series, Thakur was one the money. And from the ball go.
He took a 3 for 51 on a flat deck, hitting the turf hard and making life a bit difficult for the likes of Moises Henriques and not to forget, Steven Smith, whose wickets he took minus much drama and hype.
Played then in the 2nd T20I, dropped for the first for god knows what reason, Thakur failed to fire and was too expensive going for nearly 10-an-over. A chance lost.
Undeterred though, he made most of the 3rd and final T20I, albeit one that India lost.
But while his team lost, he delayed the inevitable and contributed to making a one-sided show into being a bit of a climax by first removing Wade, the dangerous top-scorer who routed the bowlers by scoring 80. Later, Thakur, who’d get only 7 deliveries to bat clobbered 2 long sixes as he’d score 17.
Even in that little exposition of all-round cricket, he kept knocking on the selector’s doors and perhaps their star-obsessed psyche as if to say, “Don’t just run after flair players, think about those who have the same passion, and if not more, than just as much substance."
With this train of thought, not writing on some wall, Thakur padded up to walk out to bat in the first innings at the Kennington Oval.
And just when runs were required, in order to pressure the hosts, he contributed 57 of his own. Might have seemed just another fifty but that he made these many of the 191 an entire team made up of 11 made felt special.
Moreover, that his 36-ball-stay at the crease, which is no more than a 6-over stay, featured vicious and powerful blows delivered memes on social media on how frontline batsmen ought to learn from an occasional batsman.
Though memes can never reach where true hardwork can. In reality, before padding up for England where he was until such time, just warming the bench, Shardul Thakur had spent copious amounts of time just batting and batting and batting in the nets.
Proving he was no flash in the pan, the second inning for India saw him emerge just 1 run shy of the great Number #3 Pujara, as Thakur chipped in yet again with a 60.
This was 14 more than what his captain, world’s best batsman managed and a full 60 more than what his vice-captain struck.
May golden ducks be damned.
No pushover with the ball, before his bat became busy and started talking, Thakur produced the most effective spell among a line up that had Bumrah, Siraj and Jadeja.
He removed that very batsman who had emerged as a major pain in the neck of his team: Ollie Pope who scored 81 of England’s first innings of 290.
Lord Thakur was actually producing results that one would feel spruce from lordly blessings.
But to refrain from sugary sobriquets, truth is, Thakur, whose surname literally translates into the venerable name we extend to Lord Krishna – referred to as Thakur Ji by some - is a savior of the team in the guise of a bulky, powerful cricketer.
May god continue to be his guiding light and may he continue to inspire an India that rests ever so more today on the promise of youth than on past laurels.