Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Men’s ODI WC: Hardwork & passion for impeccable wrist position, bowling out batters behind Shami’s superb run

Despite missing out on playing India’s first four matches of 2023 Men’s ODI World Cup, Mohammed Shami has been hugely impactful with his crucial spells in last two matches against New Zealand and England.

Be it be the picturesque Dharamshala or plains of Lucknow, Shami has moved the ball both ways and has been quick in outsmarting the batters to return with figures of 5-54 and 4-22 as India are now on a six-match winning streak in the tournament.

At the heart of Shami’s superb showing has been his impeccable wrist position and the incredible seam positioning achieved by him putting in lots of hardwork combined with a never-ending passion to be the best in the fast-bowling business from his early years.

“For achieving perfection in anything, you have to put in lots of hardwork and the junoon (passion) has to be such that people are left wondering ‘what if he goes mad?’ When one puts in that level of hardwork for mastering a skill, then that perfection comes. For achieving the perfect seam position, he’s put in a lot of hardwork.”

“From the days he came under me, Shami used to take the ball home and while lying down on his bed at the night, he would keep throwing the ball on the opposite wall of his bedroom. He used to keep the wrist straight and do this drill for getting it right,” says Badruddin Siddiqui, Shami’s childhood coach, to IANS.

Such was Shami’s quest for perfecting his wrist and seam position that it left his father worried, but not Badruddin. “Once his father took me to his house and showed me the wall in front of his bed which had become completely red with spots of ball. He was worried over Shami going mad about perfecting this aspect of his bowling.”

“I told him, ‘When kids want to get something right in the game, then they do things like this to make it perfect and it will become advantageous in future.’ Shami has worked very hard from the starting days. Today’s kids don’t focus much on these things – they feel it’s just a small drill to straighten the wrist.”

“They do a little work on it and then move on to things like bowling a cutter or towards trying other deliveries. But Shami is a type of bowler who didn’t work much on other deliveries – he has worked a lot on his wrist position and it’s this hardwork which has brought him where he is right now.”

At Lucknow, while ripping through England in the first power-play and in the later overs alongside Jasprit Bumrah, Shami reduced Ben Stokes to being a novice batter. He got some shape while bowling the good length balls to beat Stokes twice in his first four balls.

In his next over, he beat him twice again while not conceding a run on other deliveries in a spellbinding battle which culminated with Shami getting the ball to come in off the seam, and skid past Stokes towards the stumps.

“When you are bowling on seam, a batter doesn’t know whether the ball will come in or go away as anything can happen with deliveries like this. Most of the bowlers bowl on the seam once or twice, but Shami bowls mostly on the seam. Like, if it’s a T20 game, then he will bowl on the seam nine out of ten times. Moreover, at Lucknow, it was the first time India bowled in the night.”

“When dew comes in, the ball starts to skid and it becomes difficult for many bowlers to bowl with the ball. But Shami does practice with the wet ball to prepare for a situation like this and due to that, it did seem like he was bowling at 150kmph. The speed was same – around 140kmph, but it looked like he was bowling at a great speed as the ball became fast after pitching and became a little different to view from the outside,” adds Badruddin.

In both matches Shami has played in the World Cup, there’s been a common thread which runs through is of rattling the batter’s stumps, a sight which is the dream of every fast-bowler to achieve and for any cricket lover to witness live.

At Dharamshala, Shami thrilled fans with the clean bowled dismissal thrice – Will Young was undone by a nip-backer, Mitchell Santner was sent packing by an inswinging yorker and Matt Henry’s leg-stump was sent on a walk. At Lucknow, after rattling Stokes’ stumps, forced Jonny Bairstow to chop on to his stumps, and shattered Adil Rashid’s off-stump.

Siddiqui revealed the drill of bowling to a single wicket is behind Shami’s relentlessness to get clean bowled dismissals frequently. “Whenever you are bowling inswing or outswing, the aim is always that the ball has to finish at the wicket. Whatever inswing or outswing deliveries or even seam Shami bowls, it ultimately finishes at the wicket, which leads to bowlers like him mostly getting their wickets via clean bowled or lbw.”

“He doesn’t get much caught behind wickets as his ball mostly tails in inside and with great control on the seam, you can bowl wherever you want in whatever ways. It is a skill which is rare in bowlers as it demands a huge amount of hardwork to get that desired control and Shami does that.”

Shami’s figures in the ongoing World Cup make for an astonishing look – nine wickets at an economy rate of 4.47, with an average of 8.44. The question of batting depth meant Shami didn’t get to play first four games, before a left ankle injury to Hardik Pandya got him in and he has now left a huge impact in the competition.

“Shami has played World Cups previously and his performance there has been great too. But this time around, it’s a bit more special. Despite the way he had been performing, he didn’t get to start in the first four matches.”

“I do feel he should have been there in the eleven from the start, but with the way he has performed in the last two games, everyone must have realised it was a mistake to leave him out of the playing eleven. When you use a world-class bowler like him, the team combination also becomes brilliant,” concludes Badruddin.

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