Can Shardul Thakur bat?

An average of 38 in Tests and 16 in first class is weird as hell.

My eyes are not always right. I have biases too, baked in from years of cricket. And I tend to trust the numbers, especially once I'm immersed in them. 

And everything so far has told me that Shardul Thakur can't bat. I say this as someone who has seen all three of his Test fifties in six innings. In fact they are the reason I think it. 

He's fun; it's like dropping a fox into a bunch of seagulls. There's screaming, squawking and blood everywhere. You're not sure what's happened until it's over. But you want to see it again. 

If nothing else, he tries real hard, and he's smart. That seems to overcome the lack of elite skills he has. And if you can't enjoy a smart guy giving it his all, you're joyless. 

But Shardul Thakur's first class record suggested none of this fun. He might average 38 in a couple of Tests, but in non Test first class cricket, it's less than 16. But incredibly it's like that for all international cricket.

At domestic level he cannot bat, put on an Indian shirt and he's Lord Beefy Shardul. 

But when you watch him bat, it doesn't look like he's an all rounder. Twice today he tried to hit the ball straight and hard, and they veered off the edge through the off side. He could have been caught either time. Another he scooped the ball on the leg side at a catchable height. In fact, he's the king of catchable height, but he never gets caught. 

Perhaps his worst two moments were both playing the pull from Robinson in one over. The first looked awkward and like someone trying it for the first time. The second was as if a bird was attacking him while a bug flew into his mouth. It was one of the worst attempts you'll see. 

But a few overs later he played a kind of straight bat pull to Anderson, and it was sublime. He also looks good on back foot punches, and when not trying to overhit drives. 

He veers between looking like a number eleven - unsure where the ball will end up - and a number seven who can get you more than a few. Often within the space of two balls. 

His six from Robinson was really a combo of both the Thakur methods. It was a slower ball, outside off that he dragged gracefullyish over long on for six. 

That England resorted to slower balls to him tells a pretty big story. Ollie Robinson and Jimmy Anderson have looked like cowboys entering town after too long on the range this Test. The pitch has been lifeless since Moeen Ali joined Ollie Pope. It's had brief moments with the new ball, but it's been tough for bowlers with the old one. 

But Thakur made two fifties in this game. The first gave India a chance of getting a lead, the second gave them heaps to bowl at. The first was fun time happy go go slogging, the second some luck mixed in with a good temperament. 

Either way, when he goes, he goes hard. It's exciting and maddening. 

But his numbers are fascinating because in them I expected to find something my first look has missed. Hidden batting talent that was bursting to get out of him. 

This is all of his first class innings. Tests are in red. 

He's made nine first class 50s, three of them in six Test innings. His best first class score was an age ago. And before he came to Tests, he went through a pretty nasty dip. 

When you look at his average by innings, it's clear he's not been on some improvement curve. Now he played little in 2018, so maybe he got good then; like a sell your soul to the devil type thing. But 2017 he was terrible, 2018 he didn't play and since thrn he has four of his nine 50s. 

His average by innings doesn't show a player who could boss Tests with the bat. 

But I wanted to dig deeper because even if I suspect luck has played a part, he must do something right. And you can see more method than appears in the madness. 

He doesn't attack the spinners. Today he left Moeen alone and went for the quicks. And that's weird because India as a team took him for more than for runs an over. 

But this is something he does in all innings. He loves attacking quicks. 

And this might have something to do with him being better at Test level, where he'll face more quick bowling. But when you look at the non-Tests he's played outside Asia, he's still been rubbish. It's not from many matches, but neither has his success. He's not faced 500 international balls across 41 matches yet. 

But when he attacks seam he also picks his length well. He doesn't touch length balls, but he's all in if you over pitch or go shorter.

So this doesn't match the visual of his light-himself-on-fire form of attack. 

So clearly there is thinking going on. Even if he resembles a 90s tailender having a good time. 

Today Joe root dismissed him, and funnily enough, I don't rate him (and his 45 bowling average) too high either. So for me, the guy I'm not sure can bat went out to the part-timer I don't think can bowl. 

For Thakur's batting, I don't know if he can keep this up. Everything I have seen suggests it is unlikely. 

But he tries real damn hard, fully commits to the bit, is clearly very smart and is fun as hell. I don't know whether he can keep batting like this, but I sure hope he can.

Share