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Shami proved his mettle again, made 2023 a year to remember for India fans

Flashback 2023: Mohammed Shami proved his mettle again, made 2023 a year to remember for India fans. Mohammed Shami took 24 wickets in ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2023.

CWC 2023_ Mohammed Shami becomes the fastest bowler to take 50 wickets in ODI World Cup _ Walking Wicket (Photo_ ©BCCI_Twitter)
Mohammed Shami became fastest bowler to take 50 wkts in ODI World Cup (Photo: ©BCCI/Twitter)

If there is a year that India bowler Mohammed Shami will recollect with pride, and bask in the glory of his success, it has to be 2023. This year had a mix of everything for Shami. He was relegated to the sidelines, and mostly warming the benches in the Tests and ODIs due to the rise of Mohammed Siraj and team management’s penchant to create a reserve of fast bowlers. It was a frustrating period for him. Between the 2019 ODI World Cup and the end of 2022, Shami played just 9 ODIs. 

But he was drafted into the ODI squad and played 12 ODIs before the 2023 World Cup as India looked to find the right combination of fast bowlers for the multi-nation event. Despite good performances, he was never slotted into the starting XI in the World Cup until a freak injury to all-rounder Hardik Pandya made an opening. And then, he made the most of the opportunity and ended the tournament as not only the highest wicket-taker with 24 wickets in just 7 ODIs but the best bowler from any side. 

If Shami could make an instant impression and reap the rewards immediately in the 2023 World Cup, it had a lot to owe to his work ethic. He never let the ignominy of warming the benches despite having played 100 ODIs affect him. He maintained his fitness, kept practising harder, and kept himself in good rhythm in the hope that he could easily slide into matches if and when the opportunity came knocking. 

And it paid off as Shami took a wicket off the first ball he bowled in the 2023 ODI World Cup, capping it with 5/54 in his maiden appearance. He then delivered whenever he came onto bowl and looked good to take a wicket with every delivery. His setting up of Ben Stokes in the match against England and taking his wicket ultimately is part of the cricketing folklore. His bowling figures in the 2023 ODI World Cup reads 5/54, 4/22, 5/18, 2/18, 0/41, 7/57, and 1/47. He took a record three five-wicket hauls in a single World Cup and became the third-highest wicket-taker ever in this premier tournament.

What Shami’s performance in 2023 implies

India went with the pace bowling combination of Jasprit Bumrah, Siraj, all-rounders Pandya, and Shardul Thakur in their first four World Cup matches to add depth to the batting order and a sixth bowling option. India won all their first four matches, and then Pandya’s injury saw Shami and Suryakumar Yadav drafted into the XI, while Thakur was benched. And then Shami added the killer instinct to the bowling unit and India went on to become the best bowling unit throughout tournament. 

India management learned a big lesson that a good bowling option cannot be sacrificed and asked to warm benches over team combination. Shami proved what India was missing as his haul of 24 wickets in the tournament saw them go undefeated till the final. It was all Shami in the second half of India’s campaign in the World Cup.

Thakur, who was drafted into the XI over Shami in the first few matches, was hardly asked to roll the arm over, implying the poor confidence captain Rohit Sharma had in him. But the inclusion of Shami changed the dynamics of the bowling unit as Rohit repeatedly went for his experienced bowler to take wickets, and create a dent in the opposition’s batting unit. And Shami served well, never for once letting his captain down. Whenever Rohit needed a wicket, Shami responded and repaid the faith the management had in him. 

India was ruthless during the league stages, decimating the opposition at will. And Mohammed Shami’s performance was the biggest reason for the success. It not only made India the team to beat in the competition but also reinvented Shami as the strike bowler he was. 2023 will be made even more memorable for Shami as he is set to receive the Arjuna Award for his services to the Indian cricket team. 

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