A cricketer’s form and fitness should dictate his selection. Or so we thought. The squad selected to represent India at the Asia Cup followed by the World Twenty20 was not without its share of surprises. But the biggest was pace bowler Mohammed Shami’s inclusion.
The Moradabad player’s story has been curious. He endured injury and pain to play in the 2015 World Cup and returned only to vanish from the scene. The Indian Board announced soon after that Shami had undergone a surgery on his left knee. The player then took to the social media last July to celebrate the birth of his daughter, Aaira.
That was followed by another prolonged period of silence till Shami was included among the probables for a preparatory camp ahead of the South Africa series in September. He didn’t make the final cut.
The next opportunity came ahead of the limited-overs tour of Australia and chief selector, Sandeep Patil, said Shami had cleared a fitness test. He flew to Australia, only to be ruled out again due to a Grade 2 hamstring injury to his left leg ahead of the first ODI.
Shami is a bit of a recluse. Calls and WhatsApp messages go unanswered. Very few even in Kolkata’s maidan, where he plays club cricket and Ranji Trophy for Bengal, know how well the pacer is recuperating.
However, Mohd Badruddin, Shami’s first coach, was confident his ward would be selected in the WT20. “He is preparing to play in the Asia Cup,” Badruddin told HT last week.
However, it’s hard to fathom the reason behind preferring the bowler who hasn’t played a competitive match since March 26 last year. With an economy rate of 8.92, he is rather expensive by T20 standards, but Shami’s style of bowling perhaps is more suited to Indian pitches. He also lends experience to a pace line-up where only Ashish Nehra is a seasoned hand.
One might have to wait for the Asia Cup, starting on February 24, to see how well he bowls. More importantly, how fit he is.