Shardul Thakur impressed everyone with his ability to generate bounce and seam from the South African wickets in the couple of matches he played. He picked a four wicket haul in the sixth and final ODI and was good in the two T20Is he played.
Now back from the rainbow nation, Shardul boarded a local train from Andheri station to his home in Palghar and fellow passengers were wondering if it was truly an India player travelling with them.
The Indian Express talked to Shardul about changes in his life since his India debut and IPL. Here are excerpts from the interview.
Talking about his journey from Palghar to Mumbai for cricket practice, Shardul said, “People would often ask me when I’ll play for Mumbai and India in the train. Some would taunt me as well saying ‘why are you after cricket, itna door se aa ke thodi koi India ke liye khelega. Stop doing time pass’. But I knew what I had to do. I have devoted my life to cricket, and at the same time also finished my graduation.”
Talking about the experience of now travelling in the train as a India player, Shardul said, “This time I boarded the train in Andheri after getting off the flight from South Africa. Straight from business class to first-class. I had my headphones on and just wanted to get home soon. But I could sense people in the compartment looking at me and wondering whether I really was “Shardul Thakur”. A few college kids then Googled my picture just to be sure and then asked for a selfie. I told all of them to wait till I got off at Palghar. Many were amazed that an India cricketer was traveling with them.”
Talking about how he had to prove people wrong from a young age, he explained, “People would taunt me saying “arey yeh mota hai”. Again I went back and worked harder. I proved them all wrong the next season, taking wickets when the senior bowlers were away. Next, they said he’s not bad with the red-ball but doesn’t have the skills with the white ball. But if you see, there isn’t much T20 cricket in Mumbai, and even when there is it’s played with a red ball.I started practicing a lot with the white-ball then, bowling for the same periods with it as the red-ball. I would replicate match scenarios in practice. Like say with the yorker, I will keep aiming at the base of middle-stump and then try different angles. Whenever there have been doubts over me, I have dealt with them by practicing more.”
Shardul explained that he had work on his listening abilities, saying, “I was not a good listener in my teens. There are a lot of instances in my life that changed me as a person. I was really adamant back then and never listened to anyone. I realised it was me who’d failed. In my first Ranji Trophy season in 2012, I was not fit enough. I had good stamina when it came to bowling, but my execution of plans or my fielding weren’t up to the mark. Being overweight didn’t help. It’s then that I told myself, I have to listen to people. I will not be right always. I realized there were some good people who wished well for me, and I actually started jotting down things that I realised I had to work on.”
He also shared how different people helped him over the years, saying, “Dinesh Lad (his school coach) is someone I discuss my cricket a lot with. The best part about him is whenever I bring up a failure; he immediately calls it the first step to success. He asks me to focus on why I failed instead. Abhishek Nayar, who’s also someone I talk to a lot. If anything do gaali dega mujhe. He keeps telling me about how I’m so talented and why I shouldn’t waste my time bothering about things that are not in my control. He taught me how to practise specific things. Wasim Jaffer taught me how to use different angles of the pitch to get wickets.”
Talking about his strengths and skills he is learning, Thakur said, “My strength is that I can swing the new ball. I am not focused on bowling at over 140 kph. I’m happy if I can bowl at 137-138 kph and have control over my line and length. It’s also about not going all out always. I get the ball to leave the right-hander. In the death, it’s all about having skills and executing them. T20 cricket is different, where the situation of the match changes nearly every two balls. You have to be flexible and keep your ego aside. You are making and changing plans out there. I’ve learnt to bowl the knuckle ball over the last one year. I’ve also tried learning the leg-cutter from Bhuvi (Kumar).”
Talking about his IPL experiences, Shardul said, “When I was sent back by Kings XI Punjab midway, it didn’t sit well with me.It was for the best. I’ve realised that you can achieve a lot in the Ranji Trophy and nobody watches you, but even one good performance in the IPL and everyone’s talking about you.I worked really hard on perfecting my yorker, slower ones and also kept visualizing various scenarios from the bench.”