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Shami: India's driving force


Mohammed_Shami_India_Cricket"Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems."

Mohammed Shami has gone through a lot in just four years of his career. He has enjoyed the limelight for a considerable period of time and has also remained on the sidelines for a significant period, battling injuries.

He learnt lessons about managing his workload the hard way. After having survived the perils of the season and producing some dazzling performances from his debut in 2013 till the 2015 World Cup, where he announced his arrival as the leader of India's pace attack, Shami underwent a huge meltdown. He missed the whole 2015-16 season and it is not easy for any international player to spend that much time watching the game on TV, especially after leading the bowling attack before being laid low.

However, when asked if the constant injuries have hurt his career, Shami offers a hard hitting fact, "A fast bowler's career is always going to be riddled with injuries. The sooner the bowler realises this, the better it is. Once you realise this, there are two aspects to consider: First is how to train your body to deal with these injuries and how well you begin to understand the recovery process. But in my opinion, the second aspect is far more crucial: How much you allow these injuries to play on your mind. That is very important. Because, it is stress. Mental, not physical that takes the toll." 


Bowlers of his caliber tend to be aggressive and do not shy away from throwing a few verbal volleys towards the batsmen. However, Shami is calmer and he won't hesitate to share a smile after a bouncer or being hit for four, an endearing quality. He's always up to a challenge with a smile on his face. 


The most exhilarating aspect of his bowling is how, along with all his variations, he has clocked speeds around 140kmph consistently. He extracts steep bounce from favourable tracks and is quite impeccable when it comes to line and length. He has also got the cross seam to trouble the batsmen or yorker at his behest to topple the hitters and restrict run flow in the death. 

With the kind of accuracy he swings the new ball and reverse swings the old one, it reminds you of Zaheer Khan, probably India's greatest pacer, and Shami’s Delhi Daredevils mentor. 

He has been a captain's delight and go-to bowler. In an era of batsmen, he will get you wickets irrespective of the situation. His lethal bowling has helped him win various battles against various batting sides, and thus he emerges as the best pacer of the current Indian bowling crop. Fast bowling is all about making the batsman dance to your tunes and Shami has done exactly this many times in the past.


There are regular two speedsters in the current Indian setup: Umesh Yadav and Mohammed Shami. While the former has often strayed in line and length, the latter has maintained his bowling even at high speeds. He continues to be one of the growing exponents of swing bowling and keeps getting better every time you watch him bowl. 


In the recent past, he faced some instances where he has failed get a single wicket in a session but that doesn't bog him down. He has continued to bowl with all his heart and come up with outstanding spells every time the captain threw him the ball. Throughout his career, Shami has always tried to make things happen in the middle, rather than waiting for the situation to prosper automatically.

He didn't feature in a single game in the Champions Trophy but he already made a mark in the warm up against New Zealand where he wrecked the entire top order. He finally got to make his much awaited One Day International comeback, his first since the World Cup 2015, in the Caribbean tour

His limited overs tally of 91 wickets in just 49 games at a splendid bowling average of 24.69 defines the threat he can pose in the 50 overs circuit. Even in the Test arena, he was stupendous last season till an injury cut short his England tour. 

Shami’s story is a classic case of bowler mismanagement in Indian cricket. Like most promising bowlers in our country, India has tended to overuse him which has probably affected his fitness. 

A pace bowler’s job doesn't mean to simply turn up on the day and go ahead with the game. A lot of preparation goes into it, much more so if you are an Indian fast bowler. Achieving an optimum fitness level and then getting the basics right takes some doing. 


While Shami has been excellent in the Sri Lanka series so far, he’s still a shadow of the talent he actually possesses and has displayed in the past. If given ample rest between series and preserved, the way South Africa managed Dale Steyn early in his career, Mohammed Shami can be a force to be reckoned with for India in multiple formats. 


Given that India have a punishing schedule, preserving him for an important chunk of matches would be beneficial to India's prospects. He needs to be rested sufficiently before big tours. With the ODI season and tour to South Africa approaching, Shami is the man of the hour and key to India's turnaround when they play big games. If he can maintain consistency in form and fitness, it would be really difficult for any opposition to stop him. 

The way he has galvanised himself back to fitness has been astounding and it's only a matter of time before he's back leading the attack with his dynamism in the field.


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