With Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar being rested from the ongoing T20I tri-series, the onus to provide wicket-taking spells fell on the young Mumbai pacer Shardul Thakur.
The 26-year old had a bad start to the series, giving away 42 runs without a wicket in his four overs in the first T20I against Sri Lanka.
But the right-arm seamer bounced back to form in the two consecutive matches, against Bangladesh and the home side, recording spells of 25/1 and 27/4 in respective matches.
His 4-wicket haul rightfully earned him the player of the match accolade after India defeated Sri Lanka by 6 wickets on Monday. Speaking to reporters after the match, the youngster said that he has to take responsibility in the absence of other senior players.
“If other senior bowlers are missing from the team, then I have to step up. I have done this previously for other teams that I have played for.
I have come in place of Zaheer Khan, Dhawal Kulkarni and Ajit Agarkar while playing for Mumbai (in Ranji Trophy). I had to step up in that role. When senior bowlers are rested, I have to step up and fill that role to lead the pace attack,” he said.
The right-armer further added that he enjoys taking challenges. “I have told one thing before: I love challenges. I am taking it as a challenge,” he said.
The Mumbai speedster, who employed knuckleball on a number of occasions against Sri Lanka went on to say that he has learned the delivery all by himself.
“[Zaheer] did it actually, but I didn’t watch much of his videos. I always knew what the grip was, and then I learned it on my own. I have been practising it for a long time.
It didn’t come easily. Whenever I found time to play with white ball while playing domestic cricket, I used to try knuckle ball. Probably for two years, I have been practising it now,” he said.
Thakur, who took wickets at the right intervals, ensured that Sri Lanka do not make the most of a good start and set them up with a difficult target.
“The way they (Lanka) were going, they would have scored at least 165 to 170 but we got Upul (Tharanga) out when he was coming hard at us.
Thisara then came in and hit a few boundaries. So I think those crucial 2-3 wickets kept coming and we were probably able to cut down the total by 15-20 runs,” he said about his performance.
The bowler added that the team executed the plans well in the previous two matches. “In T20 cricket, you need to be ready for surprises. The first game was a surprise and an eye opener for us. I was hit for 27 runs and also some overs went for above 15 runs.
I feel the game against Bangladesh and in this game, we came back strongly and executed our plans well.”
After earning two consecutive victories in the series, India would look to continue their winning run against Bangladesh on Wednesday to seal a spot in the final of the tournament.