It is not often that an Indian fast bowler debuts with such a performance as was the case with Mohammad Shami in the just concluded Test against the West Indies at the Eden Gardens on Friday. The bowler, who plays for Bengal in domestic competitions, showed the capability of bowling long spells of sustained aggression and the most important thing that should have come as a breath of fresh air was his ability to reverse swing the ball at pace once the ball became suitably old. As a bowler in the limited overs versions of the game, he displayed remarkable fortitude to stay calm and collected even in the face of marauding batsmen in the ODI series against Australia, which was perhaps the biggest reason why he was picked for the Tests against the West Indies.
Mohammad Shami is no teenage prodigy but a bowler who had done the hard yards in the domestic circuit before he got enough recognition to be considered for international duty. In order to understand his story, one needs to go back a few years and consider the early years of his career, when he took a giant leap of faith and landed in Calcutta to play in the local leagues since there was not many opportunities in his native village Sahaspur in Uttar Pradesh. He worked up the ranks to finally get selected for Bengal and then was picked by the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL, where he got to learn the tricks of the trade from the ‘Sultan of Swing’ Wasim Akram. Hence it is really no wonder that he simply made the West Indian batsmen look silly with his reverse swinging in dippers during the duration of this Test match.
First and foremost, Shami can consistently bowl at speeds of 140 km/hour, which is always a plus and in addition to that, considering the fact that he is still only 23 there is a distinct possibility that he would only add a yard or two of pace as he improves his muscle strength and fitness. On the other hand, he has the capability of swinging the ball both ways, irrespective of the fact whether the ball is old or new, which makes him a dangerous customer at any point during the day in a Test match. This particular trait also made his KKR mentor Wasim Akram one of the deadliest bowlers in the world during his prime.
Last but not the least, it is always tough to bowl long spells in India due to the heat and humidity, however Shami performed that task with aplomb without showing any signs of discomfort and that is a trait that is hardly seen in many faster bowlers these days. Taking 9 wickets on debut in a Test match in India and that too on a slow wicket is a tough ask for any bowler, but only the most skilful of them can prevail in such conditions. The tour of South Africa would be the one where Shami would bowl on some of the most helpful wickets for fast bowlers where he will surely succeed. However, till then we should all savour the birth of a new fast bowling star in the horizon of Indian cricket.