Darren Sammy, the West Indies skipper, was a perplexed man after his side crashed to an innings defeat. “How does Shami reverse-swing it from that (short-of-a-good) length?” he wondered at the press conference. Sammy’s bowlers bowled a fuller length and couldn’t do what Shami did from a shorter length. Sammy’s counterpart, MS Dhoni, had the final say after India achieved victory inside three days: “Most of the fast bowlers got reverse swing, but Shami got the right length.”
Shami is leading a reverse-swinging revolution.
If you’ve seen other exponents, the likes of Darren Gough, Waqar Younis, Simon Jones, James Anderson and Zaheer Khan, you’d notice a considerably fuller length.
But Shami was jagging the ball back at length to the right-handers, hitting timber on six occasions in his debut Test.
Even the resolute Shivnarine Chanderpaul nearly dragged one onto his stumps a few overs after Denesh Ramdin got similarly lucky. The batsmen danced to Shami’s tune. He finished with fourth-best figures for an Indian quick at home, and best-ever debut performance.
India bowlers have a notorious reputation for allowing lower-order batsmen to hurt them.
It’s happened so many times: Trinidad 1961-62 (courtesy: Wes Hall), Kolkata 1983-84 (Andy Roberts) Barbados 1996-97 (Curtly Ambrose & Mervyn Dillon), Adelaide 1999-00 (Shane Warne), Karachi 2005-06 (Shoaib Akhtar) Sydney 2007-08 (Brad Hogg), and Melbourne 2011-12 (James Pattinson). India lost all those matches.
With Shami’s arrival, there is a sense that India have for the first time ever discovered a fast bowler capable of cleaning up a tail within the blink of an eye.
Karsan Ghavri, who too made his debut against West Indies, at Eden Gardens in 1974-75, agrees: “This is definitely a first for India. We’ve produced some great swing bowlers over the years but nobody has put fear into a tailender. That’s why this guy is unique.
“If you’re talking reverse-swing or even just swing, I have never seen a bowler from India do such things, especially on Indian pitches. Not even Zaheer Khan. Not even Kapil Dev. Shami has managed to do what only Waqar (Younis) and Wasim (Akram) did. He reminded me of those Pakistani greats. His reverse-swing was like a big off-spinner,” Ghavri told HT at the Eden gallery.
Asked to explain Shami’s rare ability to swing the ball from a length, Ghavri said: “It really is unbelievable. When you bowl straight, you can easily get hit on the on-side. But he takes that gamble because he’s so confident of his late swing. I predict he’ll take 100 wickets within 20 Tests.”