Mohammed Shami: From being trolled by right wing fans to earning India a place in World Cup final

Shami was brutally trolled by fans after a poor game against Pakistan in the 2021 T20 World Cup. Now he has kept India's 2023 World Cup dream alive

By Ayaz Memon

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India's Mohammed Shami celebrates a wicket against New Zealand. — PTI
India's Mohammed Shami celebrates a wicket against New Zealand. — PTI

Published: Thu 16 Nov 2023, 11:47 AM

Mohamed Shami has been the stand-out bowler this World Cup. His 7-57 against in Wednesday’s semifinal was a tour de force performance, dousing the Kiwis fire and earning India a place in the final.

Bowlers don’t usually get as much attention or accolades as batsmen, particularly in India.To upstage a cluster of Indians who batted brilliantly, especially Virat Kohli who made his 50th century that took him past Sachin Tendulkar’s record, required an extraordinary effort.

Shami’s tally of wickets in this tournament now stands at 23, the highest among all bowlers, pushing frontrunner Adam Zampa to second place.

No Indian bowler has taken as many in a World Cup. Zaheer Khan had 21 in the 2011 edition which incidentally India won.

Shami also has some other firsts to his credit. He’s the only bowler in World Cup history to claim five or more wickets in a match four times. This is his third World Cup and he now has a whopping 54 victims to his name.

Shami’s World Cup success story, however, is not pivoted on statistics alone. It stems from honing his skills to intricate levels, coupled with deep ambition, perseverance and hard work to overcome heavy odds.

It must seem ironical now that he wasn’t even played in India’s first three matches at the World Cup, and only got a chance when Hardik Pandya got injured.

In six matches since has leapfrogged over all bowlers, into pole position.

Given his strike rate, it is what his tally of wickets would have been had he not been benched in the first three matches is open to conjecture.

What is germane, however, is how this enforced absence boosted his motivation, sharpened his desire to succeed. The fire in his belly was not extinguished when he was ignored. Rather, it stoked even more burning desire.

This is not the first time, it must be told, that Shami had been fought back after being sidelined in white ball cricket. His place in the five-day format has never been in doubt, missing out on some matches only through injury or for reasons of work overload.

But in limited overs cricket, instability had set in because he was perceived as being 'expensive'.

In the 2019 World Cup in England, he was made to sit out some matches, before regaining his place and finishing with a healthy bag of wickets.

In the 2021 T20 World Cup, Shami was heavily trolled by India's Right Wing fans, after a poor game against Pakistan and subsequently lost his place in that format too.

Since then, Shami made a remarkable comeback in both ODIs T20s, his strike and economy rates among the best in the world, and earning even greater plaudits for his fantastic skills.

Given the success he has enjoyed In the ongoing World Cup, the latter come under even greater focus.

The immaculate seam position which he presents to batsmen, the late swing and seam movement he gets, the control he has over line and length, the ability to prey on batsmen’s technical and temperament vulnerabilities, showcase a maestro at work.

To reach this level, however, has taken hours, weeks, months and years of toil, often all by himself.

Apart from training with the Indian team in camps and during tournaments, Shami hones his skills on a pitch in a piece of land he owns in his native place Amroha in UP. This is where he fine tunes his skills, working on stamina, control, variety, and nuances that have raised his bowling to a work of art.

Reticent and understated, Shami has gone about his career with studious intent, taking disappointments in his stride, knowing that the best way to prove your mettle and detractors wrong is not by words, but by taking wickets.

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