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Mumbai lad Shardul Thakur's journey from Palghar to Team India

Mumbai pacer gets India call-up for West Indies Test tour

"Aaj ho jaayega (it will happen today)." Shardul Thakur bids goodbye to his father Narendra with these words as he leaves his Palghar home for Mumbai on a mundane Monday morning.

Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur after a Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha at the Wankhede Stadium in 2013. File pic/Shadab Khan
Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur after a Ranji Trophy match against Vidarbha at the Wankhede Stadium in 2013. File pic/Shadab Khan

Thakur Sr, who runs a coconut and betel leaf business, is not even aware that the selectors will meet to pick the Indian team for the limited overs series in Zimbabwe and the Test tour to West Indies.

Though Shardul is aware of the selection meeting, it is not uppermost on his mind. At 2.30 pm, his heart skips a beat when chairman of selectors Sandeep Patil's name flashes on his phone. Patil congratulates the young Mumbai pacer for making it to the Indian team for the West Indies tour.

Patil hangs up and Shardul quickly dials home. Amidst the noise of moving trains, Shardul has no option but to scream: "I got selected."

He has just delivered the biggest news of his career to his father. In Palghar, Mr and Mrs Thakur can't believe it. They hold their celebrations. They turn on television set instead. There's no trace of Breaking News, but eventually, Shardul's name appears at the bottom on the screen. The parents can't believe it. They must now.

"This is the happiest day of our lives. Shardul has struggled a lot to just play cricket. All his hard work has paid off today," Narendra tells mid-day.

Thakur's next call was to his coach Dinesh Lad, who has played a remarkable role in his cricketing emergence.

Thakur had no school-cricket exposure till Class VIII when he was studying at Anandashram Convent High School in Palghar.

The following year, he switched to Tarapur Vidyamandir in Boisar since they played "a little bit" of inter-school cricket. That's where Lad spotted Shardul — playing a match against Swami Vivekanand International School (Borivli), the school team which Lad coaches.

Lad's influence
"Without Lad sir, I don't know how Shardul would have progressed. His support has been immense. We never had to worry about where he would stay in Mumbai when he took him to Swami Vivekanand school. He took care of everything. He is like his son," Narendra says.

Initially, Thakur's father was a bit hesitant to let his son stay with coach Lad.

"It is not right, so we made Shardul travel every day to Borivili. He had to be at the railway station by 4:30 am. Sometimes, he had to switch trains from Virar or if he was lucky, he would get a direct train to Borivli. He was only 15 when he had to go through this rigour," says Narendra. "He has struggled a lot to play cricket," repeats the former Mumbai University volleyball player.

A few years ago, Shardul emerged as just the pace bowler Mumbai needed and his 41 wickets helped clinched his India place. Their son's India selection notwithstanding, the mood at the Thakur dwelling is not all that celebratory.

Shardul's maternal uncle passed away a few days ago. At best, this India selection that will take Shardul to the land of palm trees, will play soothing balm.

India's Test squad for Windies tour

> Virat Kohli (captain)
> Murali Vijay
> Shikhar Dhawan
> Lokesh Rahul
> Cheteshwar Pujara
> Ajinkya Rahane (vice-captain)
> Rohit Sharma
> Wriddhiman Saha
> Ravichandran Ashwin
> Amit Mishra
> Ravindra Jadeja
> Ishant Sharma
> Mohammed Shami
> Bhuvneshwar Kumar
> Umesh Yadav
> Shardul Thakur
> Stuart Binny

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