I am a genuine all-rounder: Shardul Thakur

Shardul Thakur doesn’t hesitate to call himself a genuine all-rounder. The way he has performed in the last few months, Thakur has become a player teams can’t ignore. Before joining the Indian team for the series against West Indies, Thakur spoke with The Indian Express about his batting, the partnership-breaker tag and other matters.


What’s the secret about your backfoot punch and straight drive?

I always had talent but in between, I didn’t get the opportunity to bat much, especially in Ranji Trophy. It all started when I came into the Indian team. Compare to other bowlers, I was a better batsman and (former head coach) Ravi Shastri gave me the opportunity to bat at number 7 or 8. Whatever talent I had, I just applied it. Whenever I get an opportunity, I bat in the nets.

During our practice sessions at the international level, most of the bowlers bowl back of a length. They will hardly give an opportunity to come onto the front foot. Maybe, it’s one reason I have developed the skill (backfoot punch). I feel, one needs the right mixture of front foot and backfoot play. It will only come when a player gets quality practice. Whenever I’m batting in the nets, I visualise possible match situations. I feel as if I’m playing a match.

Do you consider yourself a genuine all-rounder now?

Yes, I do consider myself a genuine all-rounder. Going ahead whenever I get an opportunity, I want to deliver. Whenever a batsman contributes at number seven, it helps to build partnerships and gets the team to a good score. Look at teams like Australia and England. They have players who can contribute lower down the order. It makes a massive difference.

How do you look at the partnership-breaker tag?

Honestly, I have been lucky. As a bowler, it’s an important role. To win a Test match, one needs to get 20 wickets, in ODIs we need 10 wickets. One needs luck, and it’s not like that you go and bowl and you will get wickets every time. What you’re thinking while taking your run-up is also key. If a bowler is thinking about getting a wicket, he will get it. Wickets always help to check opponents’ runs, one or two quick wickets mean the team will slow down. I always try to go for wickets and never bowl with a defensive mindset. I’m happy with the way I have managed to get wickets whenever I have come to bowl and hope to continue the same.

Can you tell us about your planning, especially when you come to bowl?

My planning and strategy start a day before the game. If I’m bowling in the nets, I will try things which I want to try in the game. If I’m executing well, I will bowl them in the game. I always believe that whatever practice I do, it should be purposeful. Having quality practice is the key.

How did you set up Dean Elgar in the Johannesburg Test?

Dean’s technique is different compared to others. Even if a bowler beats him, he is not fazed. The only thing I felt is that he doesn’t want to get out. When does a batsman get out? When he tries to play, it’s the only time when he commits a mistake. So, I was trying to make him play as much as possible. (Mohammed) Shami and (Jasprit) Bumrah bowled outstandingly, but luck wasn’t with them. I told myself luck is on his (Elgar’s) side today as most of the balls are beating his edge, so why not try to bowl as many balls that he should play. I was hoping that he would make a mistake. When a batsman keeps on playing, there is a chance that he will go for a ball which is on the fourth or fifth stump line. And it happened, and he got out.

How important was the seven-wicket haul (in Johannesburg) for your career?

It was a great feeling because I had never got seven in an innings. I had got six wickets many times. Honestly, I never thought I would get seven wickets in that game. I just went and bowled. The only intention I had was that ‘today Shami and Bumrah are not getting wickets, so I need to bowl in good areas’.

Are white-ball tricks like knuckleball and scrambled seam effective in red-ball cricket?

They are effective. Many times, while bowling with a scrambled seam, the shine of the ball is on the opposite side. Nobody knows where it will go after pitching, not even the bowler. Many times, I have tried to bowl outswing but due to a scrambled seam, the ball came in. Only the ball can decide where it wants to go after pitching. Sometimes, these variations help to deceive batsmen.

The Indian bowling wasn’t able to defend 200-plus targets in two successive Tests. Did you guys talk about it?

In those two Tests, luck wasn’t on our side. There were many times when their batsman edged, but the ball fell short or flew above us. We later realised that edges will not carry, so our fielders came closer. We were unlucky many times. Once they were 150 for 3, and we bowled them out. Once you are chasing 200-plus, there is confidence in the dressing room that it is chaseable. But if the target is 300-plus in the fourth innings, pressure starts to build up. In those two Test matches, we lost as our bowling and fielding unit didn’t carry the luck with ourselves.

What was your reaction when you heard Virat (Kohli) was stepping down from Test captaincy?

It was an emotional moment for everyone. No one expected that he would resign from Test captaincy. We did well under his captaincy, especially overseas. Those series we lost overseas were close ones. The team was doing well under him and no one expected this. However, now that he has made his decision, everyone should respect it.

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