The upright seamer

Shami injected a much-needed dose of pace into the Indian attack. Will he able to replace Zaheer Khan as its leader?
Sidharth Monga March 14, 2014

Mohammed Shami: winner, debutant of the year

2013: 17 wickets at 26.17 from 4 Tests | 30 wickets at 30.06 from 20 ODIs

One hundred and twenty-six players debuted in 2014. Sixty-three of them had already played international cricket in one of the other formats before the start of 2013. That took out the likes of Quinton de Kock, James Faulkner and Mitchell McClenaghan, who made stupendous ODI debuts in 2013 but peskily made their T20 international debuts in 2012.

Of the remaining 63 who got their first taste of international cricket in 2013, there were quite a few who promised a bright future. Ashton Agar won many a heart with his 98 from No. 11 at Trent Bridge. Hamish Rutherford, son of Ken, who bagged a pair on debut, hit 171 on debut, against England in Dunedin. It took Sohaib Maqsood nine innings to finally register a single-digit score. Kyle Abbott had a stunning Test debut, taking 7 for 29 in his only Test bowling effort in the year, and disappeared from the international scene. Corey Anderson made the fastest ODI hundred a day after 2013 ended.

Mohammed Shami, though, made all his debuts in 2013, got enough chances to play for India, and made a striking enough impact for ESPNcricinfo readers to vote him newcomer of the year.

He began the year with an analysis of 9-4-23-1 to facilitate a consolation win over Pakistan after the ODI series had been lost. He fully announced himself when he got his Test debut later in the year, taking four and five wickets in his first two innings of Test cricket.

That Test debut, against West Indies, came at a ground he now calls home. It wasn't always so for Shami. Raised in Sahaspur in Uttar Pradesh, Shami showed his parents his skill at bowling in mud fields. There were no grounds, pitches or facilities in Sahaspur. Shami's father, Tousif Ali, though, didn't burden him with the pressure of earning money for the family, instead letting him pursue his cricket dream in Kolkata. The 16-year-old was skilled enough to get employment with clubs in Kolkata. He was skilled enough to hold his place in the Indian team.

The most striking aspect of Shami's bowling is the exceptionally upright seam he consistently manages, almost like in those Hawk-Eye simulations where the ball is always delivered with an upright seam. He also injected a much-needed dose of pace to the Indian attack. The accuracy, especially against left-hand batsmen, needs work, but the ingredients, as his captain MS Dhoni likes to say, are there.

"You need a bit of pace to dominate," Dhoni said of Shami. "You can get a bit of reverse swing, and he's got very good seam positioning, which means he can reverse the ball away from the right-hand batsmen. So on wickets that have a bit more bounce, I think he will be even more effective with the ball going both ways."

Against West Indies, Shami did it all with reverse swing. Eight of his nine victims in that Test were bowled, lbw or caught at short leg. The peculiar thing about these spells was that he was getting the ball to reverse from short of a length. If you didn't know how old the ball was, you would think he was actually seaming a new one back in.

You could argue that West Indies were complicit in this devastation - they didn't cut their backlifts short, nor did they try to bat out of their crease to counter the reverse swing, but Shami went to South Africa and looked like the likeliest Indian to take wickets. He showed his versatility in using the new ball effectively there.

In all, Shami took 30 ODI wickets in 2013, at an average of 30 and economy rate of 5.39. His 17 wickets in four Tests came at 26.17. Bigger tests will come in 2014. At the end of 2013, he looked the most suited to leading India's pace attack once Zaheer Khan is gone. Shami, however, will also know that he has reached a stage similar to those quite a few India quicks before him did. Some of them lost fitness, some focus, others effectiveness. In longevity lies Shami's biggest test.

Posted by   on (March 18, 2014, 2:31 GMT)

Faraz Najam Have you looked at the Pakistani batting. TBH players like Misbah would not even get a peak into Mumbai team forget about Indian national team. Shami is a decent prospect and if he achieves what Zaheer has done for India he has done his job. My only worry is Dhoni and Indian cricket will flog him to death

Posted by   on (March 16, 2014, 6:41 GMT)

@Harry_CS - India lost tests in NZ & SA because Dhoni had taken the focus away from the basics - batsmen are there to score 1 run more than opposition to win. Fielders are there to catch a ball that flies in their direction OR stop one that is hit in their direction. Because he & his favorites were at fault on both counts - Ashwin / Kohli / Karthik kept dropping sitters, Dhawan, Sharma & Kohli were unable to score sufficient runs......Dhoni refused to call them out as the guys who lost games for India. Dhoni instead chose to put the blame on bowlers in general without naming, since the core failure in the bowlers again was one of his favorites, R Ashwin, followed by Ishant Sharma who was inconsistent at best. The god-given talent to take on the world is there in this Indian team, only effort, focus & discipline are lacking. If the team mgmt says - if you want to make money out of team India, you have to be responsible for wins, NO EXCUSES & then, watch the results.

Posted by   on (March 16, 2014, 5:24 GMT)

Sami impressed both in SA and NZ. That speaks volumes about his promise. The key word here is "PROMISE". Indian quicks have a habit of losing pace quickly and one can only hope that Shami will not do the same. Yes it was a very shallow field to pick from, but the stats show he did deserve the award. Pakistan has failed to produce any notable quick lately, because of the selectors strange 'cherry picking'. They drop and pick bowlers at will; never allowing anyone to settle for long. Many a promising lads have withered away in the process. Its the PCB that must shoulder the blame. Now they have a very tired, aging attack. Umar Gul was very ineffective during the Asia Cup. Talha, who started with a bang and was then ignored, didn't fare too well either. Only Ajmal was effective, but he is aging fast. India too lacks effective spinners. Ashwin is fading. There are some promising twirlers (Nadeem for instance), but will they ever be chosen? Its all about fairness in selection.

Posted by Fast_Track_Bully on (March 16, 2014, 4:44 GMT)

Congrats to him .nice to see an Indian fast bowler got this award.

Posted by   on (March 16, 2014, 3:48 GMT)

Good enough for an Indian bowler, congratulations! But the truth is he is lucky to be playing for India, where he can actually get selected, most other teams won't pick him.

I don't think he can find a place in a team with even a half-decent bowling attack. Speaks volumes for dearth of bowling talent in India.

Posted by kevnssuresh on (March 16, 2014, 3:19 GMT)

First of all congratulations Shami, you deserve this.

secondly: Guys, this award is the best debutant of the year, looks like not much contenders but Shami's career is decent enough last year and especially getting reverse. He may or may not continue with the same performance but we should appreciate at least he was able to perform consistently during debut year. Lets hope he does a good job going forward and wish him all success.

Posted by   on (March 16, 2014, 2:53 GMT)

Except the debut against WI, Shami has looked OK nothing extraordinary to warrant the best debutante. But then Pakistan, Sri Lanka do not play much test cricket and there were no other contenders from SA and Aus. England were pretty much rubbish throughout this season.

Posted by HarryCS on (March 15, 2014, 19:54 GMT)

@practical_person. Looks u had not watched his bowling or seen his performance against NZ and SA. India lost matches against SA and NZ because team is new specially in batting. We don't hv Sachin, dravid, Laxman, Sehwag, gambhir in test team who either retired or dropped in 2013. Watch out for india's performance in 2014-15 and u will get the reality check.

Posted by   on (March 15, 2014, 13:48 GMT)

Congrats Shami...!!! Well deserved award...!!!

Posted by Vajira_D_Silva on (March 15, 2014, 13:21 GMT)

Is this award for International debutant of the year or Indian debutant of the year. This fellow is a good enough bowler to play at international level. but has nothing special about his bawling to name him as a quality fast bowler.

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