Importance of being Shardul
Hindustan Times|January 09, 2022
Despite his all-round show at the Gabba, why Thakur had to sit out in Tests at home
Somshuvra Laha

KOLKATA: India don't need allrounders at home or anywhere in Asia, not as long as Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are averaging 28.43 and 39.44 with the bat. Play two fast bowlers and two spinners and India almost always pick 20 wickets at ridiculous averages everywhere in the subcontinent.

But the equations change whenever India leave the continent. Five bowlers become compulsory. And even though the official stance is six specialist batters are enough, deep down there is insecurity that compels seeking a backup-ergo the allrounder used occasionally. He must bat with some degree of authority but more importantly, he has to be a good change bowler. It's a thankless job, considering no outstanding performance will guarantee a place in the team if the next Test is at home. Shardul Thakur scored 69 runs and took seven wickets in the Gabba win but didn't get a game in the home series against England right after the Australia tour. But that is how it is.

India have been extremely careful about picking all-rounders on overseas tours. Of the nine Tests India have won in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries since January 2018, only twice have India fielded four bowlersin Adelaide and Melbourne during the 2018 Australia tour owing to an extra batter played.

Johannesburg in 2018 was the only occasion India fielded five pacers, including Hardik Pandya as all-rounder. In the other six wins, India always fielded four fast bowlers and one spinner with either Pandya or Jadeja (picked over Ashwin, quite controversially at times) or Thakur being the all-rounder. Brisbane, however, was an exception where India accidentally got two all-rounders in Thakur and Washington Sundar after more than half the squad was out due to injury.

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