The enormity of representing India in an ICC World Test Championship Final is not lost on Shardul Thakur.
India’s 31-year-old pacer feels like a familiar face in the Indian set-up, but would be making just his ninth appearance in Test cricket were he to get the nod for this week’s match against Australia at The Oval in south London.
Thakur told the ICC that he is determined to make every opportunity count in an Indian jersey, with the chance to be selected in an ICC Final representing a once-in-a-lifetime moment for him.
“I feel that ICC event finals especially, you don’t get to play them everywhere each and every year, so it’s, for a few players or somebody like me, a once-in-a-lifetime moment,” Thakur said.
“All that I want is to make it count. It’s always a special moment when you’re representing your country – especially India, when there’s a billion people out there who dream of playing for the nation and only the best 15 have been chosen to represent the country.
“Especially being involved in this Final, from 7 June onwards in England for the World Test Championship, it feels really special, I’m honoured.”
Three of Thakur’s eight Test appearances have come in England, when he took eight wickets and scored two fifties in the last series India played in the country.
And it was at The Oval, the host venue for this week’s WTC Final, where Thakur truly excelled. Coming in with India in trouble in the first innings, he struck a counter-attacking 36-ball 57, before contributing to a heavy lower-order total in the second innings with his excellent 60.
And with the ball Thakur was excellent in that match too, troubling England’s top order throughout and dismissing Ollie Pope, Rory Burns and Joe Root.
“It’s always good to remember your previous performances on a particular ground, but every game is a fresh start,” he said, when asked about that Oval display.
“It’s different opponents this time around, but yeah it’s always good to take motivation from what you’ve done in the past on a particular ground.”
The exact make-up of India’s playing XI is yet to be confirmed, with Rohit Sharma saying in Tuesday’s media conference that he will wait until the first morning before announcing the team.
But Thakur will be heavily in contention to play as the third quick due to his ability to move the ball and provide runs down the order, and he could also be part of a potential four-pronged seam attack should India opt against playing both of their spinners.
Thakur would be particularly useful if there are any overcast periods during a match in which the forecast suggests the weather should be set largely fair.
“I think England is challenging because the weather here is a bit funny,” Thakur said. “When the sun’s out it is good for batting, when it’s overcast it’s good for bowling, so the toss hardly matters, it’s all about the cloud cover.
“Obviously the pitch also plays an important role, but we’ve seen in the past that whenever there’s cloud cover the ball suddenly starts swinging and you can’t really predict how much the ball is going to move, so that’s one of the biggest challenges that a batter faces.
“When it’s not swinging England’s also got the best pitches to bat on, so it becomes equally tough for bowlers. Even in the helpful conditions it’s sort of important to find the right length to nick a batter off or hit his pads, so this is a country that’s challenging.”
India squad: Rohit Sharma (c), Shubman Gill, Cheteshwar Pujara, Virat Kohli, Ajinkya Rahane, KS Bharat (wk), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Shardul Thakur, Mohd. Shami, Mohd. Siraj, Umesh Yadav, Jaydev Unadkat, Ishan Kishan (wk)
Standby players: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Mukesh Kumar, Suryakumar Yadav