NAIMISH GUPTA | 13 FEBRUARY, 2019
Incredibly, India’s pace attack is the talk of the town
Until a few years back, you couldn’t have imagined an Indian fast bowling attack dominating world cricket. While our neighbors produced an array of quality fast bowlers, the achievements of our cricketing scene in this regard were limited to occasional flashes of brilliance.
But now things have changed or, to put it more correctly, they have taken a 180-degree flip. Today, we boast of a host of quality quicks and have also translated that asset into success stories in tournaments around the world. Right-arm pacer Mohammed Shami is one such to have played an integral part in the rise of India’s fast bowling armoury.
It was back in January 2013 that Shami made his first international appearance, in a one-day international against Pakistan. At the time he was known to consistently bowl in excess of 140kmph and make the ball, new or old, move either way. The flaw was Shami’s habit of losing control over line and length, resulting in his being taken for plenty of runs.
They say that experience is the biggest teacher: one learns the nuances of one’s trade on the go. It is the same Mohammed Shami whose exploits with the ball over the past year or so showcase the high-rise building of India’s fast bowling dominance.
If we consider the period from the early 2018 to the last ODI against New Zealand, Shami has taken 66 wickets in just 22 games across all formats. That’s the third highest among the Indian bowlers - with the other two, Kuldeep Yadav (91) and Jasprit Bumrah (79), having played 38 and 31 games across formats respectively.
In the recently concluded ODI series against Australia and New Zealand, Shami was quite simply the best Indian bowler throughout both series, with 14 wickets coming in seven games at a very good average of 20.64 and a healthy economy of 4.92 runs per over.
What was even more heartening: that despite frequent spells in the death overs in both those series, Shami’s economy rate breached the five-run mark only twice. That’s some achievement for a bowler who wasn’t seen as effective in the death. So, what has sparked this resurgence?
In the words of Indian coach Ravi Shastri, “It hurt him when he got the kick up the backside and he was dropped from the side for failing the yo-yo test. He went back, did the hard yards, came back fit and has not broken down since. Across all formats, he has been simply outstanding. Right through this series, whenever he has played, he has given us those early breakthroughs.”
Truly Shami’s hard work was reflected in his recent performances which led to his being named Man of the Series against the Blackcaps.
Shami is also bowling as quick as ever, with that seam position is coming out nicely through his hands, giving him better control over the magnitude and direction of the ball’s movement. Former New Zealand pacer Simon Doull, too, was impressed with Shami’s development and termed his seam presentation as the best in the world alongside that of Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
An important person whose contribution must be noted in this regard is team India’s bowling coach Bharat Arun, who has consistently worked hard with the Indian pacers, and with Shami in particular. Arun is all ears for the pacer and has given him much useful advice, like staying true to his own seam position and not trying to copy anyone else’s.
Shami’s emergence as a leading force in ODI cricket has been timed perfectly and will surely strengthen his candidature for a spot in the World Cup squad to England.
Though the English pitches are mostly expected to be belters, with rains of runs expected, weather conditions may well aid the moving ball - and that’s when Shami’s importance grows in leaps and bounds.
Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle’s phrase for Shami - “The seam loves Shami” - about sums it up, for the 28-year-old pacer’s potential importance in a World Cup in English conditions.
At the current juncture, Shami is taking just the right steps in just the right direction.