Mohammed Shami after claiming fifer against Oz yesterday. Pic/PTI
If it was Mohammed Siraj who overshadowed Mohammed Shami in the recently concluded Asia Cup by producing his career-best figures in the final, the latter did the same when the Indian team management decided to rest Siraj in the first ODI against Australia at the PCA Stadium here on Friday. Shami returned his best ODI figures of 5-51, to come back strongly after having a rather disappointing time in Sri Lanka.
It will undoubtedly be very heartening for head coach Rahul Dravid to see these two fast bowlers in top form before the World Cup. The way Siraj bowled against Sri Lanka in Colombo in helpful conditions and the performance of Shami on a flat track here has kept India's preparation on the right track. With a fit Jasprit Bumrah and all-rounder Hardik Pandya also in top gear, the form of the fast bowlers is more than what the think-tank may have expected at this stage. Probably, the only weak link is Shardul Thakur, who has the tendency to leak runs, like he did against Australia, with disappointing figures of 10-0-78-0.
One may have thought that Shami would have been sulking after being ignored in most games of the Asia Cup. But he took it as a challenge to show his effectiveness against a strong Aussie side and produced only his second fifer in his 93rd ODI match. His previous best was 5-69 in the 2019 World Cup match against England in Birmingham. He now has 170 ODI wickets, with four-fors on nine occasions, besides the two fifers.
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There is no doubt that Shami has, over the last decade, been a more-than-useful seamer who has been in the scheme of things of the national selectors. He is also a vital cog in the bowling unit for the World Cup and to see him hit top form would have heartened captain Rohit Sharma and Dravid. With India set to play as many as nine round-robin matches in the World Cup, they have the option to rotate the pace bowlers without affecting the quality of the bowling attack in an attempt to keep them fresh right through the mega-event.