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'Shardul has been daring since childhood'

January 20, 2021 07:00 IST

'Like all eager beavers he was anxious to play for the national team.'
'But he had to wait for his time as India has produced so many good, young, cricketers in recent times.'
'He had had his anxious moments, but then that is what all budding cricketers have to go through.'
'That helps young players steel themselves before they actually get to represent the country.'
'We can see that effort and nerves of steel in the first inning 120-run partnership with Sundar and his bowling that fetched him three in the first innings and four wickets in the second innings against Australia.'

Photographs: Kind courtesy Narendra and Hansa Thakur

29-year Shardul Thakur from Palghar, a township near Mumbai, who was playing the second Test match of his career, has become a household Indian name after he scalped seven Australian wickets in the final Test at the Gabba and patiently built a 120-run solid partnership with another debutant, Washington Sundar, which paved the way for a most memorable triumph.

Narendra Thakur, 73, and Hansa Thakur, 63, Shardul's proud and joyous parents, spoke at length with Prasanna D Zore/ about their son and his cricketing career.

About the victory of a young Indian team

It is a proud and happy moment for all Indians and all cricket-loving fans in the world. I am no different from the rest of India and my happiness cannot be measured because my son is part of this victorious Indian team.

What further adds to our pride and happiness is the fact that this 11-member squad had so many young players that it can easily be considered as India's A-team.

At a time when nine to ten of India's top players are injured and the team was finding it difficult to get even an extra player to fill in as a substitute, in these dire circumstances India won the Test match in a stunning manner and that too on Australian soil, in front of an Australian crowd, which no doubt will remain memorable for all Indians for times to come.

It was a brilliant team effort that helped India retain the Gavaskar-Border Trophy adding to the nation's happiness. This is a moment of collective joy for Indians as well as individual happiness for the Thakur household.

Talking to Shardul during the Test

Hansa Thakur: I spoke with him after the first innings and congratulated him for his performance.

I told him I was happy to see him play for India and that his team-mates and he did quite well to reduce Australia's first innings lead. I also asked him to keep his cool and play with patience.

We have still not spoken to him after India's win against Australia because we want him to celebrate and enjoy with his team-mates. Let them have their time under the Australian sun.

Narendra Thakur: We mostly call him at night, at around 10 pm, India time. We haven't spoken with Shardul after the victory and now it is 8.20 pm (4.20 pm India) in Australia. I don't think we will get to speak with Shardul today given that the team will be in a celebratory mood.

Usually, we speak with him around 9-10 pm, India time, but today will be different.

The 30-member squad, including all the support staff is like a big family for Shardul and that is what makes us feel comfortable.

We know that he is very happy staying with this family and that makes us feel happy too. What more can somebody's parents want than knowing that their son is part of a happy unit.

Our happiness today is like parents of a girl who know that their daughter is married into one happy family. Shardul is part of one such happy, caring family and so we know for sure that he is well taken care of.

We get to speak with him every alternate day and our conversations are short and to the point.

On Shardul's first-inning, 100-run plus partnership with Washington Sundar

It was a proud and satisfying moment not just for us, but for all cricket-crazy Indians. There were some tense moments, but the two young boys held their nerve and helped India reduce Australia's first inning lead.

While individual performances do not matter much in any sport, this partnership between Shardul and Washington helped strengthen the efforts put in by the batsmen who batted before them.

As any father would do, I had asked him to hold on to his nerve while playing the Test match because the format is so very different from other formats of cricket and needs tons of patience.

I am glad that the two lads showed lot of application and patience while batting at number 6 and 7 and helped India reach a position of strength at the end of their innings.

I had asked him to forget all about 20-20 and one-day matches and prepare himself mentally for the five-day battlefield. He followed those instructions to the tee and made the world notice that he is ready for Test match cricket too. That was his contribution to the Indian team.

Shardul's love with cricket

Hansa Thakur: He was always interested in playing cricket and we made sure we encouraged him a lot. He has been playing cricket since he was eight. He worked hard from his school days and slowly but surely he kept working his way up the ladder.

Today, his presence in the Indian national team is a matter of great pride and joy for me.

He was very happy when he hit six sixes in a Harris Shield match. We too were overjoyed with his feat.

He is shaping up into a good all-rounder now that he is getting a chance with the bat too. In his younger days and also in the 20-20 and one-day matches he would always bat at number eight or nine or ten and so couldn't get a chance to show his talent with the bat even as he did good in the bowling department.

Narendra Thakur: He started playing cricket when he was in Class 6. He started going to Tarapur Vidya Mandir's, his school's cricket academy in Boisar (a town close to Palghar where the Thakurs reside). There he played in many inter-school cricket tournaments. We encouraged him to follow his passion.

When he was in Class 10, he moved to the Swami Vivekanand School in Borivali (north west Mumbai) so that he could play inter-school tournaments in Mumbai and from there his cricketing career actually began.

He went to Khalsa College in Matunga (north central Mumbai) where he played quite well. His game was noticed by Rizvi College (Bandra, north-west Mumbai) and they asked him to join them and so he started playing for Rizvi College.

Turning point in his career

Hansa Thakur: His playing in the Harris Shield (the inter-school cricket tournament in Mumbai) and hitting six sixes in an over and scoring 72 runs in 42 balls during one of the matches not only made him famous ,but also helped him improve his performance and confidence with the bat.

Swami Vivekanand School's coach (Dinesh) Lad Sir guided him very well to bring out his talent as a cricketer. He is the one who found his talent and encouraged and coached him to bring out the best in him.

Narendra Thakur: Shardul's coach at the Swami Vivekanand School, Dinesh Lad, played a big role in transforming him as a cricketer. Under his guidance his game improved a lot and while playing a Harris Shield game for his school in 2006 he hit six sixes in an over and from that moment the spotlight was on him.

People began to see a lot of promise in this young, budding cricketer. From that moment he has not turned back and he kept moving on from one big stage to another.

Playing for the Indian team

Hansa Thakur: Under Lad Sir's coaching his performance began to shine and he too gained in confidence as he began to play for Mumbai, under-17, under-19 tournaments.

Shardul took four wickets against the England team in a practice match and that too helped him gain in confidence. The selectors who watched Shardul during this practice game gave him a chance to play in the Ranji Trophhy.

I was elated when he got the chance to play Ranji matches.

Narendra Thakur: While the Harris Shield feat did help him move to the bigger stage, like all those aspiring cricketers who are sweating it out across India, Shardul too wanted to play for his country.

Like any promising cricketer, that was his ultimate goal. He wanted to wear the blue and the white flannels and represent his country.

We are glad and proud that Shardul got to fulfill his dream of playing for India.

From playing in the Harris Shield to Ranji Trophy to 20-20 to one-day internationals to playing for India, it has been one exciting journey for our son and we are sure he will continue to do all the hard work that is needed by any cricketer to keep on representing his nation.

Like all eager beavers he too was anxious to play for the national team. But he had to wait for his time as India has produced so many good, young, cricketers in recent times.

It feels good to know that Shardul made the rank of the playing eleven amid such talent all across the country. He had had his anxious moments, but then that is what all budding cricketers have to go through.

In fact, that helps the young players steel themselves before they actually get to represent the country.

Now that he has got that opportunity he is putting in all the hard work to justify his position in the playing eleven.

We can see that effort and nerves of steel in the first inning 120-run partnership with Sundar and his bowling that fetched him three in the first innings and four wickets in the second innings against Australia.

But then he, like every player who represents the nation knows well, that this effort and performance has to be sustained and improved upon to maintain his position in the squad.

The hard work that makes a cricketer

Hansa Thakur: He would catch the local at 4.45 am every morning to go to his school in Borivali and would also travel alone to Azad Maidan (a ground for Mumbai's budding cricketers) when he was in Class 8 with all his heavy cricket gear.

Daring tyachyat khoop aahe lahanpanapasun (He has always been a daring boy since his childhood). We were amazed by how much this small boy was doing to enjoy his passion for cricket.

Narendra Thakur: Dinesh Lad sir actually made him into a tough cricketer. He gave him exposure to play with other strong school teams in Mumbai.

He allowed Shardul to stay at his home in Borivali as travelling from Palghar to Mumbai would eat into lot of his practice time. He did stay at his home for an year, but then he decided to travel from home in Palghar to his school in Borivali later.

He would catch the 4.45 am local train every day and attend school without fail. After school he would attend all his practice sessions and come back home by 8.30 pm. At times he would travel all alone directly from Palghar to Churchgate (a 120-minute journey by train) to attend camps organised by the Mumbai Cricket association.

Happiest moment

The ultimate aim of any young cricketer is representing his country and becoming a team person. It was no different for Shardul. His ultimate aim too was to play for India and keep helping his team in any way he can.

Though his first Test match, which he played against the West Indies, ended unfortunately in a 10-ball knock because of an ankle injury in October 2018, the young chap never felt hopeless. He knew his time would come if and only if he steels himself and allows his bat and ball do all the talking.

Shardul's Test debut may have ended in just ten balls, but that moment helped him strengthen his resolve. The fire kept burning with more intensity.

All this fire and resolve was at display during his second Test match against Australia that India won handsomely today.

He has proved himself with the bat and ball, but this is just the beginning for him. He needs to keep performing the same way and help his team and India win matches.

He could do this because he believed in himself. He strengthened himself physically and mentally during this 18-month hiatus away from Test cricket.

The physical fitness trainers, doctors, physiotherapists, and officials at the National Cricket Academy helped him overcome his physical injuries and mental fatigue. His rehab at the NCA helped him add a bigger perspective to his physical and mental fitness.

He had to sit on the sidelines for almost 18 months between his Test debut and the second Test match of his life. We are glad he could prove his worth for his team with his effort during the second Test match against Australia.

One can easily call this as his debut Test match.

Celebrating India's victory

As the Indian team erupted in joy along with all the Indians, Shardul's mother and I were overjoyed by what the Indian cricket team achieved in Australia today. Ever since the victory our phone has not stopped ringing. Be it the press or friends and family everybody is calling to express their joy at this victory.

I have to keep on hold calls from our village, Mahim-Palghar, because mediapersons are continuously talking to us.

We are a cricket-crazy family. We eat, drink and sleep cricket. All the people from Dahanu, Palghar, Kelwe-Mahim are cricket-crazy.

We have not been away from the television set all these five days. This afternoon, every Rishabh Pant boundary and every single run that India scored as it inched towards scripting a record in Australia was cheered with joy and applause.

Even if it was just the two of us at home we were clapping like mad.

We didn't attend a single call since this morning as we didn't want to be disturbed. I would not attend any phone call because I was keen to listen in to what the commentators were saying and describing the game played on the field.

We haven't yet had our lunch (at around 4.20 pm). The two of us have been eating and drinking cricket since early morning.