Having battled challenges on and off the field throughout his career, our Titan sets an example for a generation to follow
For a long time whenever a conversation about India at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 ensued, it revolved around the Virat Kohlis’, the Rohit Sharmas’, the Jaspirt Bumrahs’ and the Hardik Pandyas’. But over the past month, Mohammad Shami went about making a name for himself with some splendid performances that saw India give their fans some memorable moments to cherish.
Having sat out of the opening four matches, our bowling spearhead was included in the playing XI for the New Zealand tie in place of our captain Hardik Pandya, who missed the encounter due to an injury. Shami was on the money against New Zealand and returned with the figures of five for 54, his second World Cup fifer.
What followed was a top draw show against the then reigning champions England. While our Titan produced a beauty on a sluggish surface to help Team India defend a modest total, the performance also saw him bring up his 40th wicket at the World Cup – the fastest to reach the feat (13 innings), and only the third Indian to reach the milestone after Zaheer Khan and Javagal Srinath.
And from there on, there was no looking back.
Against Sri Lanka, Shami was breathing fire and notched up another five-wicket haul (5-18) helping warp up the Lankans for 55 in under 20 overs. But it was in the semi-final that he brought his experience to the fore. Having sent the openers packing in the powerplay, India was looking set for another handsome win when Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell looked to spoil the party and took the attack to the Indians with their timely knocks.
While Williamson was cautious and anchored the innings well, Mitchell was destructure-in-chief. With none of the front-line bowlers standing a chance against the two, the Indian captain turned to Shami in the 33rd over. And the man responded in fine fashion to dismiss Williamson and then followed it up with Tom Latham’s wicket to break the Kiwi spirit. Shami ended the match with figures of seven for 57, the best by an Indian in ODI cricket.
Unlike the greats before him, Shami’s run to the top has been anything but easy. But it’s his approach to cricket and life that sets the man from Bengal apart. Be it him playing with an injured knee at the 2015 World Cup or the 10 months of rehabilitation that followed – he returned with a magical performance Down Under – or the lows off the field a few years ago, our Titan has never shied away from a challenge and fought his adversaries like a rock.
With India looking at a hectic winter season, Shami’s form will help the team ooze confidence as they look to conquer new territories with their fearless brand of cricket.