Asia Cup: Batting depth in focus for India
Thakur sweats out in nets during an optional indoor training session in Colombo on Thursday
COLOMBO: During the optional training session at the Gamini Dissanayake Indoor Cricket Nets, Nondescripts Cricket Club in Colombo on Thursday morning, head coach Rahul Dravid, along with a throwdown specialist D Raghavendra, was throwing balls at Shardul Thakur with a lot of intensity.
Thakur was even dished out some toe crushers with one particular delivery from the coach hitting him on the foot. The Mumbai cricketer was the lone bowler in the group having a batting session with others being specialised batters like Shubhman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul, Suryakumar Yadav or batting-all rounder Hardik Pandya. The session was optional and held indoors due to rain with several players including captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli preferring to skip it. Besides, none of the bowlers, whether pacers or spinners, attended the session. Except, Thakur.
Even as he primarily operates as a strike bowler with a responsibility to break partnerships and scalp wickets in the middle overs, he was at the nets taking throwdowns to sharpen his batting skills. Reason seems pretty clear as the India skipper had stated while announcing the ODI World Cup squad a few days back. "It’s both, bowling depth and batting depth.
We need to create that depth and we found that it was lacking in our team for the last few years. When we talk about depth in batting, that No.9, No.8 positions become very crucial. In the first game here we saw that we fell short in the backend. We want tailenders to contribute too. Another 10-15 runs in that game would have made a difference, that is the margin between winning and losing. We have spoken to them and told them to don that role too in the WC," he had said on Tuesday.
It was India's match against Pakistan that Rohit was talking about. After they were reduced to 66/4 inside 15 overs, wicketkeeper-batter Ishan Kishan and Hardik added 138 runs for the fifth wicket to help the team cross 200-run mark. However, once they departed India bundled out in no time. Hardik got out in 43.1 overs when India were 239/6. The last four batters after him could add only 27 to the team's total as Rohit and Co were bowled out for 266 in 48.5 overs. Thakur came at No 8 in the match and could score only three runs off three deliveries.
As Rohit mentioned, a few more runs from the lower order could have propelled India closer to 300-mark making the target a formidable one. This is where Thakur's role becomes important. And it appears, the team management has apprised Thakur of what is being expected from him ahead of the World Cup which is why the medium-pacer has featured in every ODI series except for Sri Lanka at home since August last year. He was the highest wicket-taker with eight scalps in the three-match ODI series which India won against West Indies last month. His economy was 5.31 while the average was 11.62 in the series.
Thakur also spoke about his role after the series victory in the Caribbean. “If you look in the last few years we tend to play with a deep batting line-up, so as an all-rounder who bats lower down the order, my job also becomes important. That role is very crucial. Whenever I get an opportunity I try to contribute to the team’s success whether it’s with bat, ball or in fielding. At the end of the day I should be happy that I have made an effort, my performances should be impactful whichever department it is,” he had said.
With the team scheduled to have a full practice session at the R Premadasa Stadium on Friday evening, Thakur once again could be seen at the nets both batting and bowling in his bid to lend balance to the team by not only being a wicket-taking bowler but a useful lower-middle-order batter.