Reaping the rewards


The remarkable feature about Mohammad Shami’s career, thus far, has been his ability to perform at various levels whenever opportunities came his way.

There is a charm that is unique to the Eden Gardens and it was rather fitting that Sachin Tendulkar played the penultimate Test of his illustrious career at that venue. There was a plethora of activities orgainsed by the officials of the CAB to make the Test extremely memorable for “Sochin” (the way Bengalis pronounce Tendulkar’s first name), but once again the game proved that it was the master of all. A debatable decision decreed that the cricket lovers in the ‘City of Joy’ did not get to see the Little Master for long at the crease. Not surprisingly, however, the spotlight remained on Tendulkar and the Test match at Eden will be remembered by locals for long while. A couple of debutants, too, will never forget it, probably right through their lives.

Though the deeds of batsmen are generally recognised and remembered for obvious reasons, it will not be an exaggeration to say that Mohammad Shami made a lasting impression with his outstanding ability to bowl straight, quick and swing the ball prodigiously. Of course, Rohit Sharma did make for pleasant viewing, but for a bowler to make one and all sit up and take notice on a placid track takes some doing. The young bowler’s story is perhaps something out of a movie script, but there is only reality when it comes to his inherent talent. I had the pleasure of seeing him during my stint with the Bengal team and as the saying goes the first impression was the best, which has now proved right. He was in the shadows of Ashoke Dinda, but it was obvious that he was quicker than his senior colleague. This prompted me to convince the Bengal selectors to pick him at the earliest possible opportunity (2010-11) and since then the young, strong lad has only spiralled upward.

The remarkable feature about Shami’s career thus far has been his ability to perform at various levels whenever opportunities came his way. Normally, some players stutter a wee bit when they get to a higher level, especially pacers as they don’t really get seamer-friendly tracks in the sub-continent. But that did not deter Shami from picking up wickets on a consistent basis. If the ascent to the Duleep Trophy and India-A level was smooth enough, the start to his ODI career was smoother. Bowling three maidens in an ODI even on the most conducive of tracks is not done every other day in cricket. Of course, he did get carted for a few in the recent ODIs but when the stage is dominated thoroughly by batsmen it will be reasonable and prudent not to dissect the bowler.

The Test debut was a dream for Shami in every manner, but the young lad was self-effacing in his interaction with the media, which is rare in current day where youngsters deem it fit to display their attitude at every possible occasion. The journey will definitely not be so smooth always, but one thing is for sure, the ability to reverse the ball is rare and if Shami can preserve that facet of his game, I am certain that he will go on to be very successful. At a time when Zaheer Khan, another good exponent of reverse swing, is not in the radar, Team India desperately needed someone to bring in this critical element to the table. Besides, the frequent injuries have also resulted in India fielding bowlers on the basis of them being fit than on efficacy. Shami is naturally fit and can bowl long spells but I will be more than pleased if he can translate his words into action — his acceptance of wanting to train harder than he has done so far. Well, hopefully he will sustain his hunger and attitude in the years to come as India is in dire need of a strike bowler.