In the fast lane

K.R. DEEPAK

The selection to the Kolkata Knight Riders team in 2012 was a major turning point in Mohammad Shami’s career. It was when he learnt a lot about fast bowling from Wasim Akram. By S. Sabanayakan.

For Mohammad Shami, hailing from a remote village in Uttar Pradesh, where there is no cricketing facility or infrastructure, the move to Kolkata in 2006 was the first step towards stardom.

As a teenager dreaming of making it big in cricket, Shami was brought to Kolkata by his coach Badruddin Siddique to play for Dalhousie Athletic Club, a first division team. The club coach Sreemanta Hazra had his team ready and reluctantly agreed to select the boy. However, once he saw him in the nets, the coach’s perception changed and Shami made it to the playing XI. Three wickets in his first game and seven in the second, Shami was well and truly on his way.

“I had no place for Shami in my team,” Hazra said. “When the boy looked dejected, I thought I should at least ask him to bowl in the nets. Despite his frail figure, his pace was good and I decided to keep the kid,” he said.

All his struggles and sufferings disappeared as bigger teams began to chase Shami. Town Club picked him up for the next season. The medium-pacer soon began to hit the headlines regularly.

“When I saw him playing for Dalhousie, I knew this boy was special,” said Debabrata Das, cricket secretary of Town Club.

Shami played for Town Club for three years and was picked for the Bengal under-22 team in 2008-09. The medium-pacer got his major break when he moved to Mohun Bagan in 2010-11. He not only made his debut for Bengal (versus Assam) but also blossomed into a top-notch bowler.

Shami’s next big break came when Kolkata Knight Riders selected him in 2012. He then got to learn a lot about fast bowling from the Pakistani pace legend, Wasim Akram. The transformation in his approach to the game was dramatic. Shami began to bowl with good pace and deceptive movement; his line and length improved too. Shami along with Ashoke Dinda showed a lot of promise.

With a match haul of nine for 118, Shami made a memorable Test debut at the Eden Gardens against the West Indies. It was pleasing to watch him bowl the out-swingers and sharp off-cutters. The right-hander also has the ability to reverse the partially old ball.

Shami made his ODI debut in January this year, against Pakistan, at the Feroze Shah Kotla. Ironically, he replaced his Bengal team-mate Dinda in the team. Since then Shami has played in 14 ODIs and has picked up 17 wickets, with three for 42 being his best. He has taken 71 wickets in first-class cricket, with seven for 79 being his best.

Shami’s performance evoked a very positive reaction from former India fast bowler B. K. Venkatesh Prasad. “It is a good sign for Indian fast bowling. Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shami coming up is a good signal that things are working in the right direction. What I like about Shami is his ability to come back. This speaks for his confidence,” he said.