During the final moments of India’s series-sealing triumph at Cuttack, chants of ‘Shardul, Shardul’ echoed around the Barabati stadium. Not quite known for his batting skills, India’s No.8 had managed to hold his nerve and had guided India home after Virat Kohli’s dismissal had spread a pall of gloom at the venue. A day after the decisive 6-ball 17 featuring a six and couple of fours, Thakur spoke about the drama-filled night. EXCERPTS
What was the instruction from the dressing room when you were walking out to bat?
When I was going out to bat, Ravi (Shastri) sir told me to take the responsibility and finish the game. He said, ‘I have the talent to do it’. When I was entering the ground, Virat said it would be better to take a single and give the strike to Jaddu (Ravindra Jadeja). But fortunately for me, I connected the first ball from the middle of the bat. Jaddu had told me that since the dew had settled, the ball was coming on to the bat nicely. After I hit the first-ball four, the pressure on Jadeja also came down, since the asking rate reduced a bit.
Were you told in advance that you will be batting at eight?
It was clear that I would be batting at No.8. When Virat was batting, I thought that I wouldn’t have to go bat and he would finish the game. The way he was batting was pleasing to see, the target which he achieved was remarkable.
Have you ever been in such a position before?
I have finished the game in IPL, Faf (du Plessis) was batting with me then. I had hit a four in that game too. The important thing in such situations is to stay on the crease and rotate the strike. I have been in such a situation before, so it helps, as I know what I have to do.
And then the whole stadium started to chant your name…
These things are expected in the stadium. People will cheer for you once you do well. It is part of the game, it is important to celebrate the moment with the team. I don’t believe in shouting and jumping. It’s a team effort. This was the series-decider and we won the game from a difficult situation.
How do you keep calm in such tight situations?
It depends on your preparation. I do prepare in practice sessions. I do match simulation and imagine myself facing a bowler in the match. But to be honest, I have never imagined myself in such a position. In school cricket I have been part of such games. I feel things get easy once you are mentally prepared. It’s a pressure game, I feel batsmen are always on top in pressure games. While batting, I realised that the bowlers would be in more pressure than me. There is dew and if the bowlers fail to execute their plans, they will pay the price. I was hoping that the bowler failed so that I could take my chance. There is no point in taking pressure on myself.
The six which you got while trying to pull, was it pre-planned …
I just tried to connect to the ball. You don’t have time to react, you just go by the flow. I didn’t plan that I will hit that one for six, I just reacted.
The four that you hit to mid-wicket was a classic shot, the kind Virat Kohli plays…
(Laughs) I think it was just awareness of the situation. There were four fielders on the leg side, I just wanted to find the middle of the bat and get it in the gap. The ball was traveling fast, so I knew if I middle the ball, it will sail. That shot just happened.
You got back-to-back games this time, almost after a year …
I was part of the team before, somehow I couldn’t fit into the playing eleven. I played a game in South Africa, later played two games in Sri Lanka. Asia Cup I played one game, I have got breaks between games. Positive thing is that I was part of the winning cause. Hopefully, I will get more chances in future. Every cricketer waits for a day like this. This doesn’t happen overnight, a lot of hardwork goes into this. This time it was batting, I hope next time it is bowling.
Are you pleased with the way you bowled?
Yes. The last over, I couldn’t have done anything. I got hit for a six on a good ball. The wicket I got was on a variation. Had Pooran not got out, who knows he could have scored more and things would have been difficult for us.
You enjoying limelight…
(Laughs) It happens in India. We all came together from the airport. The night was normal, I had to pack the bags since we had an early morning flight to catch. I’m just hoping to cash in on the chances. I know India has plenty of talent, the competition will be there. The important thing is to do well and win games. I will be playing Ranji Trophy game , so let’s see how things go.
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