Shardul Thakur is an anachronist, he doesn’t belong to this period of data-driven cricket. He appears to belong to the old-school. He can be compared with former England allrounder Ian Botham; he can be compared with former India opener Kris Srikkanth, an epitome of nonchalance. He can also be compared with the great Kapil Dev who, legend has it, never went close to the pitch prior to a game. He didn’t give two hoots how it was likely to play. Here we are strictly talking about attitude.
Of course, in terms of talent, Shardul may not be up the same street as Botham or Kapil but he appears to wear the same attitude. It’s true that it was a collective effort in the Oval win but Shardul’s effort has to be right at the top of the pile. India had scored just 191 in the first innings with Shardul scoring 57 out of those. Take his runs out and it’s difficult to imagine how India would have made a match of it to begin with.
In the second innings, Rohit Sharma hogged all the praise after scoring his first overseas Test century, rightly so as he batted under immense pressure, but again Shardul scored a dominating 60 to ensure India had more than enough runs on the board to challenge England on a pitch that had no real demons in it.
Not just that, it was Shardul whose wicket of Rory Burns had opened the floodgates for India in the second innings. With England 100/0 early in the morning session on the fifth day, there were not many fans or experts who would have put their money on the visitors. Shardul’s wicket changed the complexion of the match.
Later in the innings, he also took the prized wicket of Joe Root and doused any draw hopes England may have had at that time. In the first innings itself, Shardul had bowled England’s highest scorer, Ollie Pope. There are enough examples here to prove what a contributor Shardul is.
Fans will remember the Gabba Test in Australia earlier this year when he made a masterful 67 batting at No.8. Again, that innings was decisive. India, in pursuit of Australia’s 369, were struggling at 187/6 when he joined Washington Sundar and just off his third ball, he hooked Pat Cummins for a massive six. That’s his lion-heartedness that we are discussing here.
At the Oval, he unleashed powerful straight drives better than anyone else. If he were an anarchist, he would take part in guerrilla warfare. He is like an ambusher and England & Australia will vouch for that. At both Gabba and Oval, the opposition teams were in full control of the match, everything smooth-sailing until Shardul took them unawares.
In these times of six-pack abs, Shardul appears mildly overweight. At any rate, he doesn’t have a well-toned body. Among cricketers of yore, it was not uncommon for them to grab a couple of pints of beer or smoke a couple of cigarettes or do both after an exhausting day on the field. Shardul appears to sport that kind of attitude, although there is no evidence as of now that he indulges in those activities.
Anyway, the argument is he is sporting a different attitude for these times where teams are following a script handed to them right at the start of a game. At no stage are the participants allowed to improvise. Shardul is a big aberration and hopefully he continues this way as long as he plays because cricket only gets richer and more colourful with players like him around.