Among many things that confounded Mohammed Shami was that extra baggage of “Ahmed” to his name. In the span of two weeks, he resoundingly ensured that his name wouldn’t be messed about. “I don’t know how my name got that tail. I’m Mohammed Shami, not Shami Ahmed,” he grinned.
Of course, he said that on a lighter vein, a streak of simplicity marking his very demeanour. He swears his means, too, are similarly simple. “I just try to keep it straight and simple. I am not bothered about how fast I’m bowling. My focus has always been on line and length,” he explained.
However, West Indies batsmen will attest to that he was more than just plain simple. “He bowled really tight and at a good pace. Also, he consistently kept an off-stump line and extracted reverse swing, which was tough to read,” pointed out Marlon Samuels.
If his faculty to swing the ball back to the right-hander was already noticed, and manifested as he cut a swathe through Australia’s top order in Ranchi, his ability to extract reverse swing was hitherto unknown. On Wednesday, during his match-defining spell, he wonderfully purveyed the black art that is a requisite for bowlers in the subcontinent.
In domestic circles, though, his commitment to this craft is well-storied. In his early days, he used to carry home a dozen of old, torn balls and then bowl with those on the matting turfs of Moradabad, his home town.
While it was conventional swing and natural angle that fetched him Samuels’ wicket, Denesh Ramdin and Sheldon Cottrell were undone by reverse swing. What makes him deadlier is that he manages to purchase reverse without much perceivable change in action or unusual contortions of wrist.
What he does cleverly is that he frequently alters his length, without compromising on the line. For instance, with the new ball he bowled fuller to the left-hander, since the ball usually leaves them, thus enhancing his prospects of a nick to the keeper or slips. As the ball got older, he reverted to his usual back-of-length line to the right-hander. Three of his four wickets were of balls that landed in the six-to-eight metre zone, and all were either on off-stump or a few inches outside it.
When conditions favour, he gets considerable shape to his away-swingers. “I never think too much about conditions before a match. Whatever, the conditions be I always look to adapt to it,” said Shami.
It’s a dream come true for Shami on many counts—making Test debut on his home ground, taking four wickets, the best returns by an Indian bowler in 46 years, and to top it all sharing the dressing room with Sachin Tendulkar. “Of all these things I’m happiest in that I have played in the same team as Sachin Tendulkar,” he said. His stars, doubtlessly, were aligned perfectly. And his name, too, wouldn’t be trampled with hereafter.