At Brisbane though, Thakur finally got his much-deserved due with the red ball, delivering a match-winning all-round performance in just his second Test.
Bowling inspirationally, the 29-year-old Mumbaikar not only took seven wickets (3-94 & 4-61), but also scored an ultra-crucial 67 in the first innings at the Gabba. No wonder, Team India coach Ravi Shastri referred to Thakur as a ‘debutant’ in his speech to the team inside the dressing room after the match.
In an exclusive interview with TOI, Thakur says that he is now ready to be recognized as an all-rounder. Excerpts…
Can you describe your crucial knock at Brisbane? What was going through your mind when you arrived at the crease with India at 186-6?
When I arrived at the crease, the situation was difficult. The whole idea and the goal was just to bat as much as possible to kill time.
How were the lower order reacting when Cheteshwar Pujara was getting hit on every part of his body while batting in the first innings at the Gabba. Apart from admiration for him, was there a sense of fear?
I think Pujara batted like an absolute warrior. In the dressing room, even though he was getting hit, we never felt that he wasn’t confident. He was ready to take those blows. He was pretty solid in his defence. At times, he might have looked ugly while watching him on TV, but he played his role sensationally. He batted superbly. There was no sense of fear at us (in us).
Net bowlers do not get to bat much. Did you get enough time in the nets? It looked as if you were absolutely ready..
I was there as a net bowler only for the first Test. After that, I was a part of the Test side. Before that, I was a past of the ODI and T20 sides. I was batting regularly in the nets. There were throwdown guys who used to help whenever I needed (batting) practice.
Can you describe your partnership with Washington Sundar?
It was one of the best partnerships I’ve ever had. I really enjoyed batting out there with Washington. We kept communicating with each other about what was happening in the middle, and that was the best thing about our stand. We didn’t look at the score. We were discussing the Aussie bowlers a lot. Like, what kind of length are Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc are bowling.
Shardul Thakur and Washington Sundar. (AFP Photo)
Have you asked for video tapes of your innings? Especially that hooked six off Cummins and that cover drive on the rise off Starc stood out…
Yes, we have our videos available all the time with our video-analyst. Whenever I feel like seeing the videos of my batting or bowling, I can just call him and ask him for the link, and he can send it across and I’ll watch it.
How much has playing for the Chennai Super Kings and conversations with their skipper, the legendary MS Dhoni helped you? Dhoni has always tried to maximise your batting potential.
Yes, conversations with him have always helped. Mostly, I’ve asked him about how he deals with pressure, because he’s dealt with it as a player, captain, member of a losing side. At the same time, he’s received love as a member of a winning side. So, you know, he’s had all kinds of experiences. Whenever he shares his experience, we have something to learn from him. He is a kind of man who will say something each and every day and if you’re smart enough to pick it up, you’ll keep learning. Each and every day, you’ll learn something or the other.
So, has this knock erased the painful memories of you falling lbw off a slower one from Lasith Malinga in the final over of the 2019 IPL? The Chennai Super Kings lost that game by one run…
Well, those memories are never going to be erased! I think that as a cricketer, I’ve to take all those things into my stride and keep working on my game. Keep moving forward, and whenever I get such opportunities in future, make it count.
You took seven wickets in the Brisbane Test. Did you expect that kind of success with the ball?
No one guarantees success. To get wickets is my primary job.
Shardul Thakur. (Getty Images)
You got the wicket of Marcus Harris off your very first ball in your comeback Test.. How relieving was that?
It was like a script from a drama. I’m playing my second Test, making a comeback after two years, and I get a wicket off my very first ball of the match itself!
How tough was it to keep waiting for your chance to play in the series? This was, after all, just your second Test.
I know it was just my second Test. I must say nothing is easy. We’ve to grind, keep following our processes, keep working hard, and then just wait for your chances. Not everyone is lucky enough to play back-to-back Tests or get a lot of chances in a row.
With Hardik Pandya’s bowling a bit compromised, is it possible that you can fill that void of a seam bowling all-rounder that India have lacked since Irfan went away?
Yes, his bowling is compromised a bit, but I think now he’s coming back into the team as a more fitter guy. Yes, I can fill the spot of a seam bowling all-rounder. However, my role is different from that of Hardik or previously Irfan (Pathan). At the moment, I just want to concentrate on my job and the role that has been given to me.
Do you reckon that people can term you as an allrounder now?
Yes, definitely, people can term me as an all-rounder. I’ve performed well with the bat as well. I’ve set the standards high now.
How many overs did you bowl each day as a net bowler? Did that help you bowl long spells when Saini broke down?
My preparations were always according to the game. It was nothing different. I planned accordingly. So, when I wasn’t playing in the Melbourne Test, I made sure that I bowled around 25 to 30 overs when the game was on. We used to practice in the nets. I kept building on the number of overs that I should be bowling. I was telling myself that in case I get to play a match, I should be ready. My body should be ready to bowl 35-40 overs in a match.
How much was it of help that both your captain, Ajinkya Rahane and coach Ravi Shastri are Mumbaikars?
Both have played a lot of cricket in Mumbai and so have I. They know where I belong from, what kind of cricket I’ve played. So, it is always easy to communicate (with them). I’ve played with Ajinkya in the Mumbai team. He led the team beautifully in the absence of Virat Kohli. He kept telling me: ‘Have patience, keep bowling good ball after good ball. Don’t think too much ahead, just be in the present and enjoy each and every moment.
How was the reception at home? You must have felt happy to finally return home after being in bio-bubbles for five months now…
It was very good. Besides my family, All my friends, neighbours and a lot of people were there to greet me when I reached home. They burst some crackers, and we cut a cake as well. Mom had an aarti ka thaali in her hand. It feels nice to be back home after five months. At the end of the day, family is family and when you meet them, it’s always good.