Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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Should we really be surprised? Can it actually be a shock to anybody?
Mohammed Shami, who sends the ball relentlessly at the stumps, whose wrist position in frequently immaculate, who is skiddy in all the great devious and delicious ways, who can produce A+ overs at any stage of an innings, is rocking a World Cup in India.
Nine wickets. An economy rate of 4.47. An average of 8.44. No other bowler in this World Cup has a set of numbers that comes close.
Let us get the caveat out of the way early so it no longer hangs in the air: Shami has played only two matches so far at this tournament. One of those was on a very bowler-friendly pitch in Lucknow, against a very bowler-friendly team, in the sense that England have gone around the tournament handing out their wickets like beaming senior citizens with Halloween sweets.
But there was also Shami's 5 for 54 from 10 overs on a batting surface in Dharamsala, against a New Zealand team whose batting order has repeatedly shown itself to be a serious force even without Kane Williamson.
In that performance, so much of Shami's menace was encapsulated. The wicket of Will Young in the ninth over was the result of a little seam back into the batter, who had shaped to chop it through off originally, but ended up deflecting it back into his stumps. In the 34th over, the ball that broke the huge Daryl Mitchell-Rachin Ravindra stand was one over which Shami had rolled his fingers. This not only slowed the ball down, but also made it stay slightly lower. Ravindra hit it into the hands of long on, not even coming close to clearing that boundary.
In the death overs, where India really shone, Shami bowled three overs that cost 17 and reaped three wickets. He bowled a majestic inswinging yorker to Mitchell Santner, having come from wide of the crease, uprooted Matt Henry's leg stump with a fullish delivery next ball, then had Daryl Mitchell caught at long-on, unable to get underneath a skiddy full delivery outside off.
We can't really be suprised because all of Shami's great strengths map almost perfectly onto a venn diagram plotting attributes that make seamers effective in India. He can seam it when needed, hit yorkers pretty well, is hard to get under at the death, and was that just a liiiittle bit of reverse swing towards the end of that Dharamsala match?
There is now the question of what kept him out for so long. How did India conceive of a World Cup XI in which Shami was not one of the first few names written down? The argument for leaving him out runs towards "balance", an idea that sometimes works more magic on the mind than on the cricket field.
Shardul Thakur, who had been India's No. 8 when Hardik Pandya was fit, could offer services as a fourth seamer, but also could bat, or so the line of thinking went. In reality, Thakur averages 17.31 with the bat after 25 ODI innings, and his List A record, which accounts for 62 innings, has him averaging 17.62. This is only about 10 more runs than Shami has scored, historically, per dismissal, but if you're really pushing it, you could claim that having someone who can at least pass the strike over to the better batters is a safer bet at No. 8.
But safe for who? The top seven, whose job it is to be making the runs anyway? Batting depth need not be the only insurance for top-order risk taking. If there is an attack you would back to defend any score at this World Cup, who else would you back but India's?
More precisely, India's with Shami in it, because his numbers are now irresistible. In 13 World Cup games, across three editions, Shami has taken 40 wickets, at an average of 14.07 and an economy rate a tick under five. Among bowlers with more than 20 World Cup wickets, Shami's average is comfortably the best.
Even outside the Thakur conversation, Shami should probably make an India XI ahead of Mohammed Siraj. The argument for Siraj leading up to the World Cup was that he had been the world's leading new-ball bowler in ODIs, but there's an emerging sense that Shami might pip him on current form. Siraj averages 48.33 at this World Cup, and 61.00 in the first 10 overs, the phase where he was so potent in the lead-up to the tournament.
As the tournament winds into its last few weeks, and the playing squares wear, and the bounce becomes less pronounced, there are few quicks in the world you would rather have in your side than Shami. Bumrah first, maybe. But soon after that, new head of hair, his wickets seeking those stumps as doggedly as ever, Shami.