An aggressive quick bowler, who can swing the ball away from the right-handers even while hitting the pitch hard, Shardul Thakur has established himself as the spearhead of Mumbai's attack. With the new ball, Thakur's at-the-batsman method forms a neat counterpoint to Dhawal Kulkarni's more metronomic style, and the two combined brilliantly to win Mumbai their 41st Ranji Trophy title in February 2016. Thakur picked up eight wickets in the final against Saurashtra, and his dismissal of Cheteshwar Pujara on the third day, the ball rearing up from a length to hit the shoulder of the bat, was perhaps the ball of the match. Thakur hails from Palghar, a town 87 km north of Mumbai, and spent his early cricketing years lugging his kitbag on early-morning trains into the city. Mumbai won the Ranji Trophy in his debut season of 2012-13, but he did not play a major role in the triumph, picking up only four wickets in four matches at an average of 82. Told to lose weight by his Mumbai team-mates, Thakur came back leaner and fitter the next season, and picked up 27 wickets at 26.25. The 2014-15 season was even better, Thakur finishing joint-top of the Ranji Trophy bowling charts with 48 wickets at 20.81. That earned him a call-up to the India A squad for four-day games against Australia A and South Africa A. Later that year, playing for the Board President's XI, he bagged a four-wicket haul against the touring South Africans, his wickets including those of Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla. Kings XI Punjab signed Thakur for INR 20 lakhs at the 2014 IPL player auction, but he only got to play one match in his first two seasons for the team.