Ishant Sharma was named in the Delhi Ranji squad for their next match. The move clearly signaled that there was a vacant post for the new spearhead of the Indian attack. There were two contenders, Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav. How would they respond, you ask? How about breaking the off-stump of the opposition’s skipper, bearing in mind that he is not just another batsman, he will be remembered as one of the greatest ever.
On day 2, Shami did exactly that.
At the age of 31, Alastair Cook has amassed 10,839 runs with 30 centuries to boot. Only a week prior to the second Test at Vizag, Cook was in imperious form, scoring a brilliant 130 in the second innings at Rajkot. He has a career average of 55.52 against India, better than his overall career average of 47.12. His best score in Test cricket, a mammoth 294 to set up one of England’s biggest wins ever in Test cricket came against the same opposition as well.
When England traveled to India towards the end of 2012, he plundered 562 runs in 4 Tests to help his team deal a dagger blow to the hosts as they took the series 2 games to 1. Oh, and just to top it all off, his average while batting in India, where most batsmen struggle is 59.94 with 5 100+ scores in just 10 Test matches.
So while what Shami did, bowling the perfect delivery with a new ball, an inswinging delivery pitched on a length, that, at first, appears to hold its shape, before jagging back to sneak into the gap between bat and pad might be a normal feat for a bowler of his caliber, it was more than just a wicket given the context of things. This was Alastair Cook, England’s captain.
It is not a big secret that England hold a mental edge over India in Test cricket. England love playing India in Test cricket. This time around when they traveled to India, it was expected to be different. India had never looked as dominating as they have in the last few months at home. England’s performance at Rajkot showed us that they weren’t worried about playing in India. They might have even been confident.
And that is why Shami’s dismissal was so important. Of course, scoring 455 in the first innings can lead to a lot of scoreboard pressure. But all of that would have counted for nothing if they let the England skipper settle in.
By destroying Alastair Cook’s off-stump, oh and there will be multiple replays, Shami might have just broken the back of the visitors. India are at top of the ICC Test rankings, but Virat Kohli is not a content leader, he wants to send a message to the world.
This is a new India, one that will not be cowed down, one that will not wilt under pressure. We are in your face, we are the best and we will continue to be.
This will be etched in the memory for a while
The third over of the innings, Mohammed Shami, who has taken a mighty 68 wickets in his 20 Tests, comes running in to bowl at Alastair Cook, captain, leader, legend.
He bowls the perfect delivery for a new ball bowler, trusting his skill and the pitch to do the rest. It did. Alastair Cook took the bait, exposing too much of a gap between bat and pad. But what transpired after was what made it special.
The off-stump broke in two. While one-half of it went cartwheeling in the air, the other half, the chipped broken bit stayed in its place, exposed to the world, a stark reminder of Shami’s incredible achievement for all to see.
It was symbolic.