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Mohammed Shami: India’s tenacious paceman

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They say 'What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger'. That while some lack the conviction to fight when faced with trying times, others use the hardships thrown their way as a foundry to harden their resolve and come out the other end tougher and shinier than before.

Indian pacer Mohammed Shami falls in the second category. After all the misery he endured, which included troubles of both personal and physical nature, the 30-year-old can proudly carry a badge of honour which not only represents his steely resolve but also sets an archetype.  

Shami’s influx to the biggest stage came two years after making his ODI debut (2013). Taking the center stage alongside Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma (who replaced the injured Ishant Sharma in the team), the 28-year-old formed a formidable partnership along with Umesh Yadav and Mohit Sharma as India looked to march towards their third World Cup. Although the dream wasn’t achieved, several milestones were set.

For Shami, a four-wicket haul against Pakistan in the 2015 World Cup was arguably the perfect head start for what was about to come. As India went on to dismantle their opponent en route to reaching the semi-final, Shami took 17 wickets in mere six games.

Meanwhile, India’s exit from the grand tournament against Australia was marred by the revelation that the pacer was actually playing through a niggle in his knee the whole time. He was forced to have knee surgery soon after, which kept him out of the sport for almost a year and a half. And it seemed those vexations had no end whatsoever.

After an injury-hit tenure, personal setbacks were waiting right at the door, and before he even got his head out of it, a failed Yo-Yo test in June 2018 left him in the middle of nowhere. Situations like these offer just two getaways: Crib about it until it gets the better of you or crawl up to the point where everything seems reachable. As for the pacer, he knew it was always going to be the latter.

“It wasn't only about failing Yo-Yo test. There are times when your rhythm goes for a toss. I failed, that's a separate thing but then, I have worked hard and improved my fitness. I feel I am in a good zone now as I have lost weight, got (into a) rhythm and everything is working for me.”

Yet, despite showcasing everything he had, he arrived at the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup as only the third-choice pacer for India after Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. But as the latter started failing to cope with the fitness, Shami was brought into contention. And with no pressure to bear, Shami returned the favour in a perfect way possible; a 4-40 against Afghanistan. That was the time where he became only the second Indian to grab a World Cup hat-trick after Chetan Sharma.

Another four-for in the subsequent game, against West Indies, made him the quickest player to reach 25 wickets in the World Cup. As things stand for the paceman, his record in the World Cup reads 31 wickets in 11 games at an average and economy of 15.70 and 5.06 respectively. And despite a record as glorious as this, a notion persisted that he is an expensive bowler, particularly in the death overs. And the irony is, barring the game against the host in 2019 where he picked five, the only World Cup fixture where the pacer failed to take a wicket, India lost the game.

4/35 vs Pak 2015

2/30 vs SA 2015

3/35 vs WI 2015

3/41 vs Ire 2015

3/48 vs Zim 2015

2/37 vs Ban 2015

0/68 vs Aus 2015

4/40 vs Afg 2019

4/16 vs WI 2019

5/69 vs Eng 2019

1/68 vs Ban 2019

And when quipped about the credits of this turnaround, the 28-year-old mentioned himself ahead of everyone. “Yes, I thank the Almighty for giving me the strength to fight everything - from family issues to fitness. I am now only focused on doing well for my country,” said Shami after defeating West Indies at Old Trafford in Manchester on Thursday.

Well, you just couldn’t agree more, can you?

Feature image courtesy: Twitter / @CricketWorldCup

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