From sidelines to stardom: How Mohammed Shami took the mantle of India's bowling hero in ODI World Cup 2023
The article delves into Mohammed Shami's transformative journey in the ODI World Cup 2023, highlighting his emergence as India's bowling sensation, his impactful return to the playing 11, and the unique facets of his bowling prowess that make him a formidable force in the cricketing world.
As Mohammed Shami returned to the top of his run-up during India's semifinal clash against New Zealand in the ODI World Cup 2023, Virat Kohli rallied the fans at Mumbai's iconic Wankhede Stadium, encouraging them to unleash their cheers with full gusto – Shaamii! Shaamii! The crowd gladly complied, providing a spirited affirmation of Shami's elevated status in this World Cup. He had become India's bowling superstar, a counterpart to Kohli's prowess with the bat. This recognition wasn't solely a result of his outstanding performance against the Kiwis on Wednesday night; Shami had evolved into a singular force, surpassing even Jasprit Bumrah.
Statistically, Shami's numbers substantiate his preeminent position. With 23 wickets from six matches, including three instances of claiming five wickets in an innings, he boasts a remarkable strike-rate of 10.9 – the most impressive in the tournament on both fronts.
However, numbers alone fail to capture the complete narrative.
During the initial four matches, Shami found himself on the sidelines, excluded from the playing 11. India's strategy prioritized the inclusion of a batting all-rounder at No. 8, a precautionary measure to address potential issues in the top order.
Adhering to this strategy, R Ashwin was given the nod in the match against Australia, while Shardul Thakur took the field against Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh.
It took an unforeseen event – Hardik Pandya's injury against Bangladesh – to prompt a shift in the Indian management's mindset. This unexpected development compelled them to reevaluate their fixation on the established approach.
For the Dharamsala match against New Zealand, the absence of the indispensable all-rounder Pandya necessitated the search for a suitable replacement who could contribute both with the bat and ball.
This is when Shami entered the scene, making an immediate impact against the Kiwis with a five-wicket haul. His performance was not only a testament to his skill but also a significant credit to his resilient mindset, having bounced back from a frustrating period on the sidelines.
Vikram Rathour, India's batting coach, echoed this sentiment, acknowledging the mental strength and character displayed by Shami in delivering a stellar performance against top-class opposition.
"Shami is a special bowler, and he is bowling really well. It was tough to get him into the team because of team combination. But he was in a great mind-space even when he was not playing," said Rathour.
Opting for the same opposition, Shami aimed to leave a lasting impression on an even grander stage – the World Cup semifinals in Mumbai.
Though New Zealand was pursuing a daunting 398, the benign Wankhede pitch and the depth in the opposition's batting lineup demanded constant vigilance from India. The team couldn't afford to ease up; they needed wickets to sustain the pressure.
Shami, with his skillful bowling, provided the ideal start by dismissing Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra. Conway fell victim to a delivery that moved away slightly, while Ravindra was caught behind by KL Rahul off a ball that angled in just enough.
Nevertheless, India found themselves on the defensive as Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell built a formidable partnership of 181 runs for the third wicket. The Black Caps were inching closer to victory.
In a strategic move, Rohit Sharma reintroduced Shami in the 33rd over. Facing Shami's delivery that hurried on from a length, Williamson couldn't connect effectively, and in the subsequent ball, Tom Latham was dismissed leg before wicket to a delivery that skidded back with the angle.
It is Shami's diverse bowling arsenal, showcasing variations in pace and movement, that renders him a significant threat on the field.
Mohammed Badaruddin, Shami's coach from childhood, shed some light on this.
"You watch any of his dismissals, he does not bowl all that wobble seam deliveries or he does not hit the pitch hard. Watch that dismissal of Conway last night, you'll get it. His seam is always up and has a perfect release. He can skid the balls off the surface at a good pace from the same slot -- tough for batters to pick which one will come in or go out. These are natural abilities and he is willing to work hours on his skills – ability and hard work are certain to bring success," said Badaruddin.
Bumrah frequently attempts to entice batsmen into making mistakes with his line around the off-stump, whereas Shami consistently launches a relentless assault on the stumps. Perhaps, among contemporary bowlers, none executes this strategy as consistently as Shami.
Williamson, who is also Shami's teammate at Gujarat Titans, emphasized this distinctive quality in Shami's bowling approach.
"He is, without a doubt, one of the top operators in the world and the way he moves the ball and he keeps bringing the stumps into play. It has been quite phenomenal," said Williamson.
Another dimension to Shami's bowling prowess is his exceptional effectiveness against left-handed batters. Among his 23 victims, eight belong to this category, and they include high-profile names such as Conway, Ravindra, Latham, Ben Stokes, and more.
Against left-handed batsmen in this tournament, Shami maintains an impressive average of just four.
As India progresses to the final on Sunday, where they will face the mighty Australians, the opposing teams must be wary of the looming Shami storm in Ahmedabad, especially considering the presence of prolific left-handers like David Warner in their lineup.