Mohammed Shami a vital cog in MS Dhoni's plans
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Mohammed Shami a vital cog in MS Dhoni's plans

Progressing by leaps and bounds, pacer Mohammed Shami is an integral part of India's strategy in the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

cricket Updated: Oct 13, 2014 02:50 IST
Sourya Chowdhury
Sourya Chowdhury
Hindustan Times

Sachin Tendulkar was bidding adieu to one of his favourite amphitheatres on that mild winter afternoon in Kolkata. But the one who stole the limelight on that fateful day was a Bengal pacer making his Test debut. Mohammed Shami devastated the hapless West Indian batsmen that day with his dexterity in handling the reverse swing.

The pacer has progressed in leaps and bounds since that day and proved on Saturday, during the second ODI against the same opponents, that he is an invaluable part of MS Dhoni's plans for the World Cup.

"Shami bowled a terrific spell," the captain said after the victory.

Dhoni singled out the bowlers for his praise on a pitch where he considered his team had fallen about 20 runs short. "It was a pitch with variable bounce and we were 20 runs short. But the bowlers did a splendid job in not even allowing them to get the singles and twos."

Shami had an indifferent tour of England but he has once again started to focus on his strength, late swing, and it is already reaping dividends.

On Saturday, he dismissed Darren Bravo with a beauty that straightened off the pitch and then got rid of Dwayne Smith, who had almost taken the game away from India, with a delivery that swung in late. The dismissals highlighted Shami in top form.

On pitches and conditions where success is contingent on having a top-quality pace attack, Shami, having already picked up 66 wickets in 35 matches, is certain to be one of the first names on Dhoni and Duncan Fletcher's team list. The pace of Umesh Yadav, the experience of Ishant Sharma and the accuracy of Bhuvneshwar Kumar (especially in Australian conditions) will also be banked on by the captain-coach duo.

For many, though, the dominant narrative of the match focused on leg-spinner Amit Mishra. Having conceded 72 runs in the first match in Kochi, Mishra was on the verge of an existential crisis.

However, his courage in flighting the ball, even whilst being hit for sixes on Saturday, finally rewarded him. Redemption must have felt all the more sweet when the captain spent a considerable amount of time in focusing on the spinner's guile and technique in the post-match press meet.

"Mishra was not afraid to flight the ball, and whenever he does that, he gets more purchase. Since the pitch was gripping and Mishra flights it more than (Ravindra) Jadeja, I gave him an extended spell." The captain also lauded Jadeja for his efficacy in cleaning up the tail.

Often the unsung hero, Mishra's large-hearted display has put him back in the mainstream and brightened his chances of making it to the 2015 World Cup squad. Indeed, now in the autumn of his career, this could well be Mishra's last World Cup, and with the impending rise of spinners like Kuldeep Yadav, he will be desperate to get into the team.

If he can maintain this momentum, he will be more than a handful on pitches that offer him that extra bounce.

First Published: Oct 13, 2014 02:40 IST