AS 23-year-old Railways pacer Karan Thakur returned to his hotel room after picking five wickets on Day One against Baroda in the CK Nayudu Trophy,he was happy he had registered his first five-wicket haul of the season. The following morning,Railways coach S. Srinivasan asked the lanky seamer to lead the attack. Thakur didn’t disappoint as he picked up two quick wickets in the morning to equal his previous best of 7/22. 30 more minutes and he had claimed his eighth.
“I was very happy to get my eighth wicket as it helped me to surpass my previous best of 7/22,which I had achieved in 2011 against Tripura. Until that moment,I had no vision about taking all the ten wickets as I thought it would be practically impossible. There are chances that a batsman might throw his wicket from the other end or he might get run out,” says Thakur,who became the first bowler after Anil Kumble to pick all the ten wickets in an innings (28.5-5-77-10),though only in an U-25 match.
“While I fielded on the boundary line,waiting for my next over,I thought another wicket would be great,if it came my way.”
As he picked up his ninth scalp,it struck Thakur that this might just be his day. Baroda tailender Firdaush Bhaja walked out in a destructive mood. He swung his bat at every ball Thakur bowled,but success evaded the latter by inches.
“Disappointed,I gave up bowling thinking that the tenth was not destined. But it had to happen. So when I took the ball again,I castled Bhaja and for some time the feeling didn’t sink in. It was later that evening that I realised that I actually have achieved something really big,” he says. “The Baroda team gave me a guard of honour and the coaches praised my effort. The umpires presented me the match ball which was the best thing I could have got on that particular day.”
Ask Thakur how he pulled off such an incredible performance and he immediately credits former Australian great Glenn McGrath for it.
“I had been at the MRF pace academy before the CK Nayudu Trophy and was training under the watchful eyes of McGrath and Senthilnathan sir. The thing that worked for me is the fact that McGrath told me to mix my bowling as it puts the batsman in two minds. He asked me to use the short ball as a surprise and then get the batsman out on the fuller delivery. I worked on that and it fetched me results,” adds Thakur who has taken 17 wickets in four matches this season.
2013 turned out to be the third season on the trot for Thakur. In his last season,he had picked up 13 wickets in six matches while his tally was even better in the 2011 season where he took his 29 in five matches. Thakur had four five-wicket hauls to his name in 2011 including 7/22 against Tripura.
“It was a time when I was very high on confidence as I had just won the Gatorade pacers hunt and had returned from the ICC Global Cricket Academy in Dubai,” says Thakur.
The bowler,whose strength is to shape the ball away from the right-handers,endured a tough period between 2008-2010. His U-19 stint with the Railways didn’t prove fruitful and he was eventually dropped from the squad twice after making it to the probables.
But an opportunity came his way in the form of Gatorade pacers hunt and he grabbed it with both hands. He first went on to win the north zone leg and made his way to the top beating close to 11,500 other Indian pacers.
“After the win,I attended a 2-week camp at Vasant Vihar in Delhi under Pakistani legend Wasim Akram,who taught us various drills by which we could improve our bowling. He showed us how to swing the ball in different conditions,” says Thakur,who plays for Sonnet in Delhi and now works as a points man in the Railways at Nizammudin. “Once I went to Dubai,Dale Headley helped me with my fitness and bettered my bowling action. It was something which improved me as a bowler despite me not playing for the Railways.”
With three matches left in Railways’ Ranji season,Thakur is hoping a call up.
“My focus is now to play the Ranji Trophy but I am relaxed and waiting for my opportunity. Until I don’t get a call up,I will be working on my follow-through to make my bowling better,” Thakur says.
Life has come a full circle for Thakur who started off as a opening batsman for Himachal,and even played badminton and volleyball at zonal levels in Delhi. The ten-wicket haul is a dream he will relish all his life.