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'Cricket is like God for Shardul'

By PRASANNA D ZORE
January 21, 2021 08:43 IST
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'He knows that cricket has given him an identity without which nobody will care about who Shardul Thakur is.'
A Rediff.com Cricket Special.

India pacer Shardul Thakur celebrates after dismissing Tim Paine

IMAGE:Shardul Thakur celebrates after dismissing Australian Captain Tim Paine. Photograph: Jono Searle/Getty Images

Dinesh Lad, who coached the latest India cricket sensation Shardul Thakur and Rohit Sharma before him, tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com about the pacer from Palghar, his temperament and what makes Shardul such a special talent...

While what Shardul did in the Test match in Brisbane was brilliant, the entire team should be congratulated for its equally brilliant, all-round performance.

As a coach it gives me immense satisfaction to see him going out there and squaring up with the Australians on their home turf.

The way he batted and bowled brought lot of joy to me. If Washington Sundar and Shardul had not forged that 120-run partnership in the first innings, India would have been bundled out for 200 runs. Australia paid dearly for letting that partnership flourish.

What adds to this partnership was both played a chance-less knock.

The overall team performance was equally good; everybody pitched in their department.

Pujara (56 runs in 211 balls) gave the solidity that this team and the second innings needed; Shubham Gill (91 off 146 balls) on the ultimate day of the match brought the momentum required to chase a decent total on the day. His knock post lunch helped India gain an upper hand against the Aussies.

Ajinkya Rahane (24 off 22) also did his bit as a captain as well as a batsman.

(Wicket-keeper Rishabh) Pant kept well behind the wickets (four caught behinds in the second and one in the first inning); his contribution with the bat (89 off 138 balls) played a very significant role in India's victory too.

(Mohammad) Siraj (one wicket in the first and five wickets in the second inning) and (Thangarasu) Natarajan (three wickets in the first inning) had the Aussie batting line up look like amateurs.

Shardul was also good in the bowling department (three wickets in the first and four in the second inning).

That is why I believe that India's victory in the fourth Test match would be remembered more for the team effort.

For once, individual brilliance seems to have been overshadowed by team effort.

In cricket a team never wins because of an individual's performance. All the cogs in the wheel must play their role and that is what showed in India's victory.

Shardul Thakur took three wickets in Australia's first innings

IMAGE: Shardul Thakur took three wickets in Australia's first innings and four wickets in Australia's second innings. Photograph: Jono Searle/Getty Images

As his coach I can tell you that he has got good swing and pace and he used both these strengths to outwit the batsmen. If you see most of his wickets were caught behind the wickets or caught at slips.

His swing moment and pitching the ball up to allow the batsmen to play shots helped him scalp seven wickets in both the innings.

Shardul Thakur waves to the dressing room after scoring 50.

IMAGE: Shardul Thakur waves to the dressing room after getting to 50. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

When I saw him bat I was awed and overjoyed to see him batting like a champion. He batted like a regular batsman who bats up the order.

I think India has got a good all-rounder in Shardul.

About his batting, he had helped the Mumbai team win a Ranji Trophy match against a very good UP bowling attack. He had scored 89 runs in that match in 2013-2014 and had helped in his team's effort to win the match.

He had scored decent runs while playing the Ranji Trophy, but his batting then was all about hitting the ball out the park. He was not in the habit of staying on the wicket for long.

During the recent IPL matches when I saw him playing wrong shots and getting out I told him that he must ensure that he stays at the wicket for long.

He was always a good batsman and that's the reason he was promoted higher up the order in IPL matches.

I told him the Indian selectors were watching him after his one-day performance that helped India win a match against the West Indies and so he needed to focus more on his batting and goad himself to stay longer at the crease.

He must have worked hard on this aspect of his batting in the last two months after the IPL. He has benefitted immensely after focusing in his batting.

IMAGE: Shardul Thakur celebrates dismissing Cameron Green on Day 4 of the fourth Test against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane, January 18, 2021. Photograph: Matt Roberts/Getty Images

I just kept honing his talent and brilliance as a cricketer. I saw a very promising career in this boy and so I asked him to stay in my house for almost a year after discussing it with my wife.

It was laborious for him to travel all the way from Palghar (a township on the distant outskirts of Mumbai) to Borivali (north west Mumbai) to attend school and play cricket.

He was always a natural bowler, but he worked hard to improve upon his batting.

In the beginning, during his Ranji days, he had put on weight and that affected his performance on the field.

Since he stayed closer to the beach I advised him to go for jogging there every day and control his diet. He did not have much control over what he ate then.

But then he tightened his belt and worked very hard towards his fitness. What happened after that helped him make a comeback in cricket.

And what a comeback he has made in Australia!

I might have given him tips to improve upon his fitness and cricket, but it was he who put in the effort that is required to implement what was suggested and come out of a bad patch.

He did not become a great cricketer because of me; it was his effort, sincerity, discipline and hard work that made Shardul a good cricketer.

While talent is very important in achieving success in any field, if it is not complimented with sincerity, discipline and hard work, mere talent cannot take you places.

Shardul has reached the Test cricket level because of his hard work and discipline.

I am feeling very happy for Shardul.

Given his on field performance he did give an impression that it was just his second Test match. He got injured in his first Test against the West Indies after bowling an over.

His bowling effort at Brisbane will remain memorable for a long time to come. He scalped important, top-order, wickets.

He got these top-order batsmen out and made his big contribution in India's team effort.

Shardul Thakur

IMAGE: Shardul Thakur kisses his Test cap after he was named in the Indian team to play the second Test against West Indies in Hyderabad. Photograph: BCCI/Twitter

He did feel low for some time knowing that despite his best efforts he was unable to play for his country due to his injury. But he fought bravely and defeated his injury to come up trumps.

He had to be operated for his ankle injury after the West Indies Test debut and post his operation he worked very hard at the National Cricket Academy and made his comeback.

I think India has got a very good red-ball bowler. In my opinion, he is one of the four best red-ball bowlers in India currently.

When I saw him play in his school matches at Palghar I knew he was a special talent.

I insisted his parents allow me to bring him to Mumbai for better exposure. It took me some time to convince his parents and that is what brought about the turning point in his cricketing career.

He would not have got good exposure had he continued playing there (in Palghar). India would not have had the chance to see this talented cricketer.

Interestingly, he played against my school's team in that match when I first saw him in 2006. He impressed me with his bowling; I felt he was the fastest bowler in Mumbai at that time in that age group. He was in Class 10 then.

Though Swami Vivekanand School (the team Dinesh Lad coached) won that match, Shardul impressed me with his 78-run knock and five-wicket haul.

I knew he was a special talent and my wife and I decided if he comes to Mumbai he will be staying at our house.

I had told his father that if Shardul comes to Mumbai he will, one day, play top-level cricket. I couldn't then tell his father that one day he will play for the country, but Shardul made it happen by his hard work and discipline.

Since Borivali was far away from Palghar his parents were reluctant to send him to Mumbai, but then my assurance that he would stay with us convinced his parents to send him to the Swami Vivekanand School in Borivali.

Shardul Thakur

IMAGE: Shardul Thakur appeals unsuccessfully during a One-Day International game against New Zealand at Eden Park in Auckland. Photograph: Hannah Peters/Getty Images

If you see his potential, which he has proved in ample measure now, he has a knack to adapt to all three formats of the game. If he continues in this form, I am sure he can become an inseparable part of the Indian team in all the three formats.

The biggest change in him is that he has realised his true potential during this journey. He has got a wiser head over his shoulder now compared to his cricket during school days.

When I suggested he start jogging on the beach and control his diet he worked sincerely on these two aspects to improve his physical and mental durability. If he had not followed a strict fitness and diet regimen he would not have reached where he has today.

Any cricketer -- or for that matter any sportsperson -- needs to sacrifice these things to excel in what they do.

He is passionate about his cricket. He knows that cricket has given him an identity without which nobody will care about who Shardul Thakur is.

Cricket is like god for him.

IMAGE: Shardul Thakur, right, with Coach Dinesh Lad, centre, and a friend at a wedding. Photograph: Kind courtesy Dinesh Lad

Whatever advice I had given to him he has followed it and made us all very proud. It would be wrong to give him any advice at this stage. He has become a mature cricketer with a calm temperament.

Let him continue playing for India the way he did in Australia with the bat and ball. But, of course, his focus should be more on bowling.

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PRASANNA D ZORE / Rediff.com
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