From Cross Maidan to the Gabba - story of batsman Shardul Thakur

From six sixes in an over at Cross Maidan to top scorer at the Gabba - Shardul Thakur has certainly come a long way.

Shardul Thakur top-scored in India's first innings of the fourth Test.   -  AP Photo

Shardul Thakur was not even born when Garfield Sobers hammered six sixes in an over off Malcolm Nash in 1968, or when Ravi Shastri achieved a similar feat against Baroda’s Tilak Raj in 1985.

Years later, Thakur, however, broke into that league - albeit at the school-cricket level.

In the winters of 2006, a 15-year-old Thakur hammered six sixes in an over to guide his team - Swami Vivekanand International School, Borivali - to a victory against Dr S. Radhakrishnan International School, Malad. That was the Zone D final of the Harris Shield Plate Division at the Cross Maidan, and Thakur - who was mostly known for his fast bowling prowess till then - took everyone by surprise with his batting skills.

Brisbane Test: Washington, Shardul lead India’s fightback against Australia  

Watching that fixture from the sidelines, Dinesh Lad - who was then the coach of the Borivli school - was impressed with the way the youngster went hammer and tongs at the opponent bowler Vishal Dhruva.

“That was such a gritty innings. He was always a good bowler, but with that innings he proved that he could also bat as well under pressure,” Lad told Sportstar.

"He took six wickets in that match and then went on to play that quickfire knock. It was nice to see him bat that way..."

That particular knock helped Thakur make it to the headlines of the local newspapers and he soon became a talking point in the cricketing circles. But as time went by, his bowling took precedence over his batting.

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And 15 years later, on a Sunday morning, it was another Thakur show. This time, the venue was Gabba.

Coming in at a time when India was struggling after having lost wickets, Thakur not only steadied the ship with Washington Sundar - stitching a 123-run stand - but also top-scored for India in the first innings with 67. His was also the third highest score by an India batting at No. 8 in Australia.

Read: Shardul, Washington century partnership shatters records, frustrates Australia  

Watching the innings from his home in Mumbai, Lad - who has mentored Thakur and Rohit Sharma - was excited to see his ward come a long way. “I told him a few days ago that he should grab every opportunity that comes his way in terms of batting. Today, he kept his cool and went about his business. It was an incredible achievement and as a coach, I am very happy with his efforts.”

Washington Sundar and Shardul Thakur put up a crucial 123-run stand.   -  Getty Images

 

“What was important was that he made the most of every poor delivery. He did the job very well, just like a pro batsman. This is definitely a big moment for him,” the seasoned coach said.

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A couple of years ago, Thakur was unlucky to have picked up an injury during the Test series against the West Indies - which was also his debut in the longest format of the game. But the 29-year-old ensured that he did not lose hope and waited eagerly for his moment of glory.

While he has time and again proved his mettle in the bowling department, his batting never really blossomed at the highest level. Even though he proved his class in a tight chase in the ODI series decider in Cuttack against the West Indies a couple of years ago, Thakur still maintains a batting average of 16.00 in first-class cricket.

Also read: How MRF Pace Foundation made Washington Sundar a better batsman  

But many in the Mumbai cricketing circle remember his cracking 87 off 100 on a seaming track in Kanpur in 2014, where he helped his team clinch a Ranji Trophy tie. However, before and after that, he never really had an opportunity to prove his worth as a batsman.

But the Gabba - which has always been a happy hunting ground for the Aussies - actually turned out to be a lucky ground for Thakur - who struggled a lot in his formative years to come so far.

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Growing up in Mahim-Kelve, which is around 12 kilometres from the small town of Palghar in Maharashtra, Thakur had to commute to Borivali every day to chase his dreams. Back in those days, he would start his day before sunrise and would reach home only at 10.30pm.

And Lad remembers those days of struggle. “He used to play for the Tarapore Vidyamandir in Boisar, when I saw him one day. He was a fine talent, who needed a bit of brush up. So, I requested his parents to allow him to shift to the Swami Vivekanand School. Back in those days, ours was a new school and we wanted young talents for our team. The parents took time, but soon, he shifted to our school,” Lad said.

Also read: Shardul, Washington batted brilliantly; we faltered in execution: Hazlewood  

He offered to keep Thakur at his home and that moved Thakur’s father - Narendra, who was a popular local cricketer and a farmer. “They were happy with this and next year, Shardul moved to our school and there hasn’t been looking back since. I told his parents that Mumbai is where the action is, and they agreed…”

While those formative years helped Thakur overcome the odds and chase his dreams, those days also taught him how to bat at crucial junctures. Years later, he is reaping the benefits - far away in Brisbane.

With determination and courage, Thakur has once again proven that he can bat solid, lower down the order. And as Virat Kohli puts it, “tula parat man la re Thakur!”