As Mahendra Singh Dhoni braces up to regain the ICC World T20 title he won back in 2007 in his first assignment as Indian skipper, the selectors seem to have taken a gamble by picking Mohammed Shami in the squad of 15.
India’s Mohammed Shami bowls during the 2015 ICC World Cup warm-up match against Afghanistan at the Adelaide Oval on Feb 10 last year. Pic/Getty Images
Gamble because it’s been over 12 months since the Bengal pacer last played international cricket. Shami was picked for the recent limited overs Australia tour, but he sustained a Grade-II injury to his left hamstring which restricted him from playing active cricket for at least four to six weeks, forcing him to return home.
Although selection committee chief Sandeep Patil clarified in New Delhi that Shami has recovered and has started bowling, there is still a major concern about the pacer’s body being able to sustain the rigours of fast-paced Twenty20 cricket.
Shami’s mentor at Delhi Daredevils, TA Sekar (team director) is worried about the pace ace’s selection for the World T20 and Asia Cup T20.
“It is a big risk (taken by the selectors). There are injury concerns regarding him. Maybe, they will test him in the Asia Cup and if he is not found fit, then there could be a replacement announced for him,” Sekar, who has worked with a plethora of fast bowlers in India, told mid-day yesterday.
Shami was drafted for the Australia tour after a good four-match outing on the domestic circuit (two Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 matches and two games in the Vijay Hazare one-day tournament). Despite bowling almost his full quota of overs in the one-day and T20 tournaments, he still broke down during a practice session Down Under.
Patil said Shami would be watched closely. “Shami has 30 days before the World T20.
“Also, we have the Asia Cup (before the World T20) so we have good time to take a call on Shami. He has been one of our best bowlers,” said Patil, elaborating on the decision to pick Shami.
A fit Shami can be devastating. He was the second-highest wicket-taker (17 at an economy rate of 4.81) in the 2015 World Cup played in Australia and New Zealand and was a key factor in India reaching the semi-finals.
The knee injury lay-off thereafter was nothing short of a nightmare. Shami was bed-ridden for two months “only allowed to walk up to the bathroom” while his wife was pregnant with their daughter Aaira. He hoped the injury “does not come in his life again”, but it recurred. Sekar, however, has no doubt that an injury-free Shami is India’s best bet.