The Resurrection of Mohammed Shami’s ODI Career
It was around June last year, when Mohammed Shami was dropped from the squad for the one-off Test against Afghanistan. He could not clear the much-debated Yo-Yo fitness test. To make matters worse, the Indian speedster was also bogged down by a much-publicised personal problem.
It has been seven months since and Mohammed Shami has done a lot more than just redeeming his ODI career. Such has been his impact with the white ball in the last few weeks that Shami might be on the plane to England.
If we go back to the last cricket World Cup in 2015, Shami was very much among the scheme of things for Team India.
Shami played the entire tournament in Australia-New Zealand with a nagging knee injury, which worsened as the tournament progressed. When he was planning to make a comeback in the early parts of 2016, it was a hamstring injury, which again foiled his chances.
According to Shami, this injury layoff was one of the darkest phases of his career, which made him question his cricketing future. Post-surgery, he spent around eight months recovering at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru.
Since his comeback during the Windies tour in the summer of 2016, Shami was slowly getting back in the groove. With a new run-up in place, Shami looked a more complete bowler. He was already reversing and moving the ball both ways before his injury but this new run up helped him to work on his pace. A new Shami was in the making, who could do more than just reversing the ball. A lethal bouncer and an effective yorker was now part of his armoury.
Despite this new improved update, Shami hardly impressed the selectors, who believed that the Bengal pacer was only fit to play red ball cricket. After the 2015 World Cup, the next time Shami played ODIs was around two years later in 2017. A mediocre performance and Shami was again out of reckoning, as far ODI cricket was concerned.
At the same time, Shami was slowly but surely making his presence felt in Test cricket. Since the 2015 World Cup, Shami has gone onto play 28 Tests but only 9 ODIs. The parity in numbers again shows how Shami case was nothing but the ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’
In 2018, Shami travelled to South Africa, England and Australia. During this period, he played in 13 Tests, including one Test against Windies at home, and finished with a handsome tally 49 wickets at an average of 27.14. It was between the tour to England and Australia when Shami was once again welcomed to the ODI fold after a gap of more than a year. His exploits and heroics in Test arena finally reaped him benefit. It was in the longest format of the game Shami found his rhythm back. And Shami himself knows and acknowledges that.
“I like Test cricket (more than the shorter formats). When you do well in the longer format, it takes the confidence higher up. After the 2015 World Cup, it took me nearly two years to recover my normal self. I am now bowling with my old confidence and in the same manner that I used to (before injury).”Mohammed Shami
However, Shami’s form with ball alone did not contribute to his return to the ODI fold. The other aspect to this is Team India’s inability to find back up pacers for Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah for the 2019 World Cup in England. For a good year and half Virat Kohli solely concentrated on the duo to cement their place as the frontline seamers for the 2019 World Cup.
During this period, a plethora of pacers and combinations were tried and tested by the team management. However, neither any of them showed any promise nor did the team showed any patience. Umesh Yadav, Shardul Thakur, Khaleel Ahmed and Mohammed Siraj were brought into the side but they hardly left any impression neither on the opposition nor on the team.
According to skipper Kohli, keeping the World Cup in mind it was a calculated measure to give Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah the maximum game time. But what this had done was that not only it left the remaining pace battery high and dry, the team was left with the need of a third seam option for the tournament in England.
Amid all this, Shami, since his return to ODI cricket, accounted for 11 wickets and became the fastest Indian to reach 100 ODI wickets (56 matches) in the first ODI against New Zealand in Napier. He has also struck a partnership with Bhuvneshwar, in the absence of Bumrah.
With these developments in place, it seems Team India might have finally found a solution to their problem and Shami might have just resurrected his ODI career.
(This article was written before the second ODI between India and New Zealand. All the numbers and statistics mentioned above are updated till the first ODI between India and New Zealand, which took place in Napier on 23 January)