Shami’s Journey from Being an IPL Outcast to Purple Cap Holder

From finding it hard to make into an IPL XI to leading the bowling attack of KXIP, Shami has come a long way.

4 min read
Mohammad Shami has been in top form for Kings XI Punjab in IPL 2020, with his pace, accuracy and wicket-taking ability

Five years is a long time in life. But in cricket, it is a lifetime.

This story is from about five years ago when at the end of the 2015 World Cup, India had been knocked out in the semi-final (nothing new).

The heroes of India’s campaign had been their fast bowlers and, of course, Virat Kohli. The man leading the Indian attack was fast bowler Mohammed Shami who was slowly but surely establishing himself as a pre-eminent bowler.

But at the end of the World Cup, it came to light that Shami had been injured and played the tournament through the pain. He came to Delhi Daredevils, his Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise, with that injury. There was a lot of interest around Shami and his presence in the squad. Previous years in the IPL had not exactly gone well for Shami, but this time it was different as he was coming off a fantastic run in the World Cup.

He was quiet, unassuming and just a bit hesitant at times. He kept to himself and was largely someone who would be categorised as an introvert.

Very soon it was known that Shami’s IPL journey in 2015 was over. All the wait around Shami continuing his exploits during the IPL had to wait another 12 months. But it is in these 12 months that we first saw signs of Shami changing.

Under the captaincy of Virat Kohli in Test cricket, India started showing the first signs of developing a world-class pace attack. Shami emerged as the lynchpin of that attack. But his white-ball form continued to be a problem. He had been struggling in the shorter formats, much like his other teammates Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav.

Shami remained on the periphery of India’s white-ball plans and that also showed in the way he performed in the IPL. In the 2016 edition of league, he played just eight of the available 14 matches for Delhi Daredevils (as Delhi Capitals was known then). His economy of 9.69 for five wickets told a story of its own.

Much the same continued for Shami when he moved back to India ranks as he continued to strike rich with the red ball. But when it came to the white ball, Shami was nowhere close to being the lethal bowler that he was with the red.

In 2017, the situation did not improve much for the right-arm fast bowler. As he continued to struggle with the format. This time his economy improved slightly as it dropped to 9.34 for the five scalps he had in eight matches.

Then began the toughest phase of Shami’s life and career. Personal problems started bogging him down. It affected his approach to the game. He had also lost his place in India’s white-ball squads, while he continued to be a regular in Test matches. Shami’s personal life is no one’s business and he received total support from his peers.

But when it came to IPL 2018, the problems reared up yet again. Though there is nothing to say that there was a direct correlation, the way Kolkata Knight Riders’ muscleman Andre Russell took to him at Eden Gardens in Kolkata in 2018 will never be forgotten. Russell just took a liking to Shami and he smoked him at will. Shami never recovered from that.

The personal problems showed up as well because the squad was in Kolkata and thereafter we saw little of Shami in the tournament. In the 2018 edition of the IPL, Shami featured in just four matches for Delhi Daredevils. It showed in the economy of 10.40 for the three scalps he picked.

It was then in 2018-19 that his career took a turn for the better. He fought his way back gallantly. His red ball form took a huge leap. He played a part in India’s historic first-ever Test series triumph in Australia. As a result of his form, the selectors and the team management could no longer keep him out of the white ball squad.

With a World Cup looming large and the IPL mega auction leading to a change of franchise, Shami seemed to be on a new high. He switched from Delhi to Kings XI Punjab and his white-ball form took a new shape.

He was sharper and hurrying the batsmen even in the shorter formats. The purpose in his run-up and the rhythm seemed to be better than ever before. It showed in IPL 2019 when he became the lynchpin of the Punjab attack. From being someone who would struggle to make it to an IPL playing XI to being the lead bowler was a huge step up for Shami.

In the 2019 edition of IPL, Shami played all 14 matches and picked 19 wickets to finish seventh on the list of highest wicket-takers for the season. He was in fact tied with his fellow pace bowlers Khaleel Ahmed of Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians’ Jasprit Bumrah on the number of wickets. His economy rate was also slightly better than the past couple of years. He was now at 8.68 runs per over.

That form of IPL slipped into the World Cup 2019 too. He was not the first choice for the XI as Bhuvneshwar Kumar started ahead of him. But when he played, Shami struck gold. He even picked up a hat-trick, only the second Indian to do so. He was now well and truly back. He was now one half of a famous new ball pairing with Bumrah for India.

Since the 2019 World Cup, Shami has just risen his stature. He turned 30 last month and is at the peak of his powers as a bowler. You can see that in the way he has bowled thus far in IPL 2020. To emerge as the purple cap winner for whatever period of time is an achievement for a man who just five years ago was unsure and just a couple of years ago was even contemplating his future.

This is indeed a story of the rise of a man through sheer hard work and perseverance. Therein lies a story for all of us to never give up on our dreams irrespective of all the challenges that life may throw at us en route.

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