One of the greatest hallmarks of an elite sportsperson is that he/she is constantly baying for the next opportunity to arrive their way when they are out of action.
They constantly work hard in the wilderness, and when an opportunity does come knocking at their door, they are completely switched on to pounce on it.
Champion Indian seamer Mohammed Shami is a prime example. Shami did not feature in the home team's opening 4 games of World Cup 2023, but how he bowled against New Zealand in Dharamsala suggested that he had been playing all along.
The right-arm seamer hit his strap from the very first delivery as he induced an error from opener Will Young to give India their 2nd wicket. He nearly backed it up with the dismissal of Rachin Ravindra but for a rare error from Ravindra Jadeja at backward point.
The drop catch proved to be costly as Ravindra and Daryll Mitchell went on to add 159 runs for the 3rd wicket. With India in a desperate search for a breakthrough, Shami returned to the attack and succeeded in breaking the threatening partnership as he dismissed a well-set Rachin for 75.
Shami returned for his 3rd spell at the start of 48th over, and proceeded to go bang-bang, as he knocked over Mitchell Santner and Matt Henry with searing yorkers to complete a well-deserved 4-wicket-haul. All of a sudden, he was on the cusp of another World Cup hat-trick, rekindling memories of 2019.
He eventually finished with a five-wicket haul after dismissing the centurion Mitchell in the final over of the innings, ensuring that the Kiwis lost their last 6 wickets for just 54 runs to finish at 273.
Shami's performance against New Zealand once again highlighted his supreme temperament, but most importantly, it also reminded everyone of his value as an ODI bowler.
Mohammed Shami In ODIs- A Serial Wicket-Taker
If taking wickets in clusters is an art, then Shami is the undisputed Picasso of it.
This was Shami's 5th 4-wicket haul in World Cups in just 12 innings. No other Indian has ever taken more than 2 4-fors in the tournament's history.
In addition to this, he also has 2 5-fors in World Cups, and his overall tally reads a freakish 36 wickets in just 12 matches.
His strike rate of 17.6 is comfortably the best among all bowlers who have taken at least 20 wickets in the tournament's history, and yet when we talk about the leading ODI pacers of the modern era, Shami's name just never comes into discussion.
Shami's ODI Legacy In Numbers:
- Fastest Indian to 100 (56) & 150 (80 matches) wickets.
-Most 4-fors (5) and 5-fors (2) for India in WC's.
-India's 3rd highest wicket-taker (36 in 12 innings) in WC's.
-Most 4+ wicket hauls (12 in 94 innings) for India.
One of the major reasons behind this image that Shami isn't a great ODI bowler stems from his issues in bowling at the death. This limitation of his gets widely exposed in T20s, which gives the impression that he isn't good in all white-ball cricket.
Like in T20 cricket, where he constantly strikes in the powerplay, Shami has proved his worth in the 50-over format even more as an out-and-out wicket-taker during the powerplay and middle-overs.
Mohammed Shami In ODIs: A Sleeping Giant Who Keeps Rising Like A Pheonix
Shami made his ODI debut in January 2013, and since then, he has opened the bowling attack for India in 74 matches, his strike rate of 27.5 is bettered only by Australian left-arm seamer Mitchell Starc (25.8).
He has flourished equally as a first-change bowler, as was visible during the match against New Zealand. In 18 innings, the right-arm seamer has taken 39 wickets at a strike rate of 24.1.
Shami led the Indian team beautifully during the 2015 World Cup despite suffering from a career-threatening knee injury.
While the likes of Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult took all the well-deserved glory, an injured but determined Shami left a lasting impression as he finished with 17 wickets in 7 matches at an average of 17.29.
"I had a knee injury during the 2015 World Cup. I couldn't walk after the matches I played throughout the tournament with the injury. I played in the 2015 WC because of Nitin Patel's confidence.
"The knee broke in the first match itself. My thighs and knees were the same size, doctors used to take out fluid from them every day. I used to take 3 painkillers," Shami revealed to Irfan Pathan on Insta Live in 2020.
Playing despite such a serious injury meant that Shami missed out on a lot of game-time between 2015-17, but the feisty cricketer went on to make a brilliant comeback during the 2018-19 season to force his way back into the squad for the 2019 event in England.
With Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah having established themselves as the first-choice pacers, Shami had to wait for his opportunity, but once he got it, he pounced on it like a hungry lion, scripting a brilliant hat-trick against Afghanistan.
Shami had a great time during the 2019 World Cup as he picked wickets for fun, but his issues at the death were exposed in full daylight by Ben Stokes and England, forcing the team management to drop him for the semi-finals.
In the last 4 years, his death bowling issues and the emergence of Mohammed Siraj meant that Shami was again relegated to the 3rd seamer spot.
And, with India opting for "batting depth", he has had to bide his time and wait for his opportunity.
But, like in Mohali last month against Australia, where he claimed figures of 5/51, and against New Zealand in this World Cup, Shami has repeatedly given an account of his temperament and his match-winning abilities. And, it is time we start giving him his rightful dues as one of the greatest ODI bowlers that this country has ever produced.
Featured Image Credit: BCCI