West Indies vs India 2016, 1st Test: Why Mohammed Shami's spell on day 3 is a great sign for Indian cricket
6 November, 2013. A promising young fast bowler from Bengal was making his test debut against West Indies but all the spotlights were far away from him as the ‘Master Blaster’ was playing his last series. Shami wouldn’t have got a better time to make his test debut than this, when all the eyes were away from him and he could find his feet in test cricket.
The test match was a 3-day affair and it wasn't the spinners who dismantled the West Indian batting but it was the young debutant who broke the opposition’s back by picking up 9 wickets in the match. There were moments in the match when he displayed so much control over reverse swing that people found it hard to believe that he is not a seasoned bowler.
A bowler with nippy pace, considerable seam moment of the pitch and exemplary reverse swing skills, he made sure he didn’t go unnoticed in the match despite the master playing his second last game. Shami showed in his first match itself that he is different from others, he had the pace, he had the upright seam and he had the ability to break partnerships.
India had a bright prospect in front of them.
Successful comeback from injury was crucial
Shami was one of the best players on show for India in the 2015 ODI World Cup. He was the highest wicket-taker for the team and whenever Dhoni needed him, he delivered. But one thing that was not known till the tournament got over was that he played the whole World Cup with a knee injury.
He managed to hold on till the tournament got over and his dedication towards the team was highly appreciable.
A lengthy layoff beckoned after the World Cup and Shami was out of active cricket for almost a year. Such a lengthy layoff for fast bowlers can be both physically and mentally draining and people are always apprehensive when they make a comeback. Shami made a comeback in the team after the IPL but didn’t get to play many matches.
Then came the West Indies tour, a tour of extreme importance to him. It was the same team he destroyed on his debut to announce his arrival in the test setup and now he was playing them again in what can be called as his second debut.
India posted a mammoth 566 in the first innings and West Indies were under pressure when they came out to bat on the evening of second day of the test match. Shami struck early in his spell and it looked like he meant business straight away on his comeback.
The seam was upright, the pace was good and the follow through seemed complete. Surely he is not the guy who was out of international cricket for a year, surely he is not the guy who is playing test cricket in the Caribbean for the first guy.
Yesterday he started off from where he left off on the second day. He scalped the huge wicket of Darren Bravo with a fine delivery that generated some extra bounce and then followed it up by dismissing Marlon Samuels and Jermaine Blackwood to break the back of West Indian batting.
There was something extra he was generating from the pitch which was evident in the way he was getting extra bounce and subtle seam movement off the pitch. He was able to make the ball behave in mysterious ways on a track that seemed dead since a century.
Shami was back, the pace was there, the seam movement was there and the lines were better than even before the injury.
Shami’s performance yesterday made the future look brighter
Shami has seen so much in his short career but the fact remains that he is just 25 years old. He is yet to see the peak of his career and he has got all the attributes to lead the Indian bowling attack for years to come.
Except Ishant, India doesn’t have any other reliable fast bowler in the test setup and Shami’s comeback will give Kohli some assurance. Though Shami is an equally good bowler, if not better in the limited-overs format, but with the scarcity of fast bowling resources that India has presently in the test setup, he is much more needed in the longest format.
With India set to play a host of test matches in the next one year, it is crucial that Shami maintains his form and fitness. With Ashwin and Mishra as frontline spinners and Ishant and Shami as frontline pacers, the bowling will sort itself out automatically if the Bengal-based remains fit.
The way he bowled yesterday was not only a defining moment in the match but it can also be a defining moment for his career. His bowing yesterday showed everyone that he hasn’t deteriorated like many others who make a comeback after lengthy injury layoffs.
His spell has filled hopes in the Indian team of having a quality bowler who can pick wickets in any situation.
Shami is a quality bowler, he has every skill that a bowler needs to succeed at the highest level, he has the grit and determination to back up his skills. All he needs is to maintain his fitness and we can be rest assured of many match winning performances from this smiling assassin in the years to come.