On match eve, Indian skipper MS Dhoni sounded buoyant about India’s new pace find, Mohammed Shami. He did not disclose to the Press whether the youngster would make his debut in the opening Test against West Indies, but what he said about Shami, hinted that he was set for a debut at a venue which is famous for memorable performances.
And, indeed, spectators at the Eden were treated to very special performances in back-to-back innings by a 23-year-old whom they count amongst their own. After all, Shami represents Bengal in the Ranji Trophy. The paceman, against whom the visiting batsmen were totally clueless in the third session, returned with match figures of 9-118 and became India’s second most successful bowler on debut after leg-spinner Narendra Hirwani, who stunned the cricketing world with his haul of 16 wickets in 1988.
In the second innings, Shami ripped through the heart of the Windies middle order, getting rid of the dangerous Marlon Samuels, trapped in front of the wicket, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin caught by Murali Vijay at forward short leg, skipper Darren Sammy whose stumps were uprooted and spinner Shane Shillingford who met with similar fate.
The soft-spoken Shami then closed out proceedings, getting rid of the No 11 Sheldon Cottrell, who was bowled. His figures on Friday afternoon read: 13.1-0-47-5, but what was more important was the manner in which he got his wickets. Apart from generating considerable pace, he maintained an extremely disciplined line and once the ball got old, made optimum use of reverse swing.
Off spinner, R Ashwin, who played a crucial role in India’s victory by hitting a career-best 124 and then taking 3-46, credited Shami for closing out the game within three days. “He bowled brilliantly in the afternoon and ensured that the opponents were under pressure. Shami had a good game and hopefully he can continue this way,” said Ashwin.
Sammy hails Shami
Windies skipper Sammy, meanwhile doffed his hat to Shami for bowling in areas that every pace bowler aspires, but few succeed consistently: “Even our bowlers were bowling reverse swing, but the difference between them and Shami was that he was extracting swing from the good length, whereas we were bowling full and reducing the impact of the swing.”
India have had a host of pacemen in recent times who have impressed initially, but faded within a very short span. That’s probably one reason why Dhoni wants Shami to concentrate on his fitness. Before the Test, he said: “He has the pace, he has the ability to trouble batsmen and we will also be working at ensuring he keeps his fitness levels over a length of time.” If the team management can manage this, then Indian fans are in for heady days.