Behind the rise of India medium pacer Shardul Thakur is an unknown hero that has perhaps never been given due credit -- wife of his childhood coach Dinesh Lad. How? It was she who gave permission to her husband to let Thakur stay at their two BHK flat in Borivali, Mumbai, despite having a daughter of almost the same age.It was a tough decision for the Lad family, but it must have been easy for the well-known Mumbai coach to spot the latent talent that Thakur possessed. At the time, Thakur lived in Palghar -- over 86km from Borivali -- and Lad did not want the precious talent to go astray."I saw him playing in 2006 in Mumbai against our school team, Swami Vivekanand International School. Playing for Tarapur Vidya Mandir, Shardul scored 78 runs and also picked five wickets. Impressed by his performance, I asked him to join my school. I asked him to tell his parents to contact him. I told his father that Shardul had a lot of talent and could play top level cricket," Lad told IANS from Mumbai on Tuesday, after India defeated Australia in the fourth and final Test in Brisbane and won the series 2-1."However, his father declined, saying Shardul had [class X] board exams and also the journey from Palghar to Mumbai was more than two-and-a-half hours, which was very difficult. Then I talked to my wife and asked her if we could keep a boy at our home so that he can play here in Mumbai. My wife agreed and we bought him home," he disclosed.Lad admitted said that initially he and his wife were a little bit hesitant as they had a daughter of almost the age of Shardul and there was a 'risk factor' bringing an unknown person to stay at home"Ours was a two BHK flat in Borivali. Initially, we were reluctant as we too had a daughter who was Shardul's age, or maybe a year older.
There was a risk factor. But we made him stay at our home and it paid dividends. We didn't take any money from him. I got him admitted in my school, and Shardul stayed with us for a year," Lad, who coached him and Rohit Sharma at his school, informed.Till then, Thakur used to travel by train from Palghar to Swami Vivekanand International School, and that was taking a lot of time."During school cricket, Shardul smashed six consecutive sixes and made a name for himself. He then got selected for the under-15 Mumbai team and there was no looking back," Lad said.Indeed, there was no looking back.Fast forward to the 2020-21 tour of Australia. In dramatic turn of events in Australia, after Mohammad Shami got injured, Thakur -- originally part of only the ODI squad -- was added to the Test squad as Shami's replacement for the second match that India went on to win to level the series 1-1. Thakur, however, wasn't played in that match in Melbourne.Thakur, 29, also wasn't picked for the drawn third Test. But he was finally picked in the XI for the fourth Test when Jasprit Bumrah got injured.Thakur's 69 runs and seven wickets in the fourth Test has helped him to find a place in the India squad for the first two home Tests against England -- a reward well deserved.From travelling in crowded Mumbai local trains to playing on one of the fastest pitches with guts, Thakur has traversed a journey that many cricketers just dream about.As of now, Thakur's international cricketing journey comprises two Tests, 12 ODIs, and 17 T20Is, and it is a one that is a remarkable story of perseverance, grit, relentless efforts, particularly about grabbing the opportunity with both hands.Before the fourth and final Test at the Gabba, Thakur had played just a solitary Test against the West Indies in 2018. In that game, he could bowl only 10 deliveries before he got injured.During the drawn third Test in Sydney, Jasprit Bumrah, Ravichandran Ashwin, Hanuma Vihari, and Ravindra Jadeja suffered injuries.
Courtesy these unwarranted injuries, Thakur was included in the playing XI in fourth Test and the lad from Palghar showed his true mettle and grit and is now being counted among one of the heroes of one of India's most memorable Test wins.Using his experience of 63 first-class matches and 45 IPL games, Thakur first scalps three important wickets of Marcus Harris (5), Tim Paine (50), and Pat Cummins (2), to help India bundle out Australia for 369 in their first innings -- a score that at one point looked to be heading in excess of 450, at least.Then during India's reply with the bat, Thakur came to bat at the crease when the visitors were in a difficult situation at 186/6. He, along with Washington Sundar, shared a 123-run partnership for the seventh wicket which helped India concede a lead of just 33. Thakur turned out to be India's unlikely hero with the bat and contributed with a fine 67, with the help of nine fours and two sixes."There was a time few years back, when he had become quite bulky and started bowling wayward. I told him to do running on the sand. I told him, 'you have a beach near your place. Why don't you run there?' He began working on his fitness after that. There was also a time when he was disappointed at not being given a chance for Kings XI Punjab in IPL. But I told him to stay calm and look at the positive side. You are getting to practice at the top level," Lad told IANS earlier.Then in the second innings of the fourth Test, when Australia seemed to be getting away with the game at 89/0, he dismissed Harris (38) and induced a mini-collapse. Then, he took the wickets of Cameron Green (37), Paine (27) and Nathan Lyon (13) as Australia were bundled out for 294. India were set a target of 328 that the Ajinkya Rahane-led team chased down for one of their most remarkable wins in their Test history.