Earlier this year, India fast bowler Mohammed Shami was the leading wicket-taker in South Africa and helped the national team to win a Test match. Though India lost the series 2-1, Shami and the other pacers had impressed in a nation where India have fared poorly over the years.
Mohammed Shami must have thought that this was a new chapter in his cricket career after picking 15 wickets in three Tests against the Proteas. He had done well against Sri Lanka too at home in November 2017.
The injury-prone fast bowler looked in shape and was in tremendous control. He continuously spelled trouble for the hosts. Shami’s variety of swing, consistency over 140 kph and providing a headache for batsmen in judging his deliveries, was a class act. Shami grew with every match and the others seemed to have rallied around him.
What looked like an exciting phase for the bowler and Indian cricket has now turned into something that both parties would not have liked. After all the promise and buzz, the last few months haven’t gone according to plans for the right-arm fast bowler. He finds himself out of the Indian team despite earlier having been selected for the one-off Test against Afghanistan, starting June 14.
Shami failed the yo-yo fitness test held at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. The selectors were thus prompted to summon rookie Delhi speedster Navdeep Saini in his place. The 27-year-old Shami, who has 110 wickets from 30 Tests, is now in a spot of bother as things have gone awry for him since the series against the Proteas.
So where did it go all wrong for the pace bowler?
In March 2018, allegations of domestic violence by wife Hasin Jahan took centerstage and the issues just got deeper. Besides domestic violence, other allegations made by Jahan were on match-fixing and adultery. She also alleged that the Indian cricketer fudged his age to fool the BCCI.
The BCCI had held Shami’s contract. But after investigations, he was cleared by the cricket board and was awarded a Grade B contract. Although Shami was cleared of all charges, the issues were still looming.
Shami had a dismal Indian Premier League 2018 season and was a disaster for Delhi Daredevils. He ended up playing just four matches and took three wickets at a woeful average of 48.00. He was subsequently dropped from the team and did not make it to the starting XI for the rest of the tourney. DD went on to finish last in the IPL table.
After being selected for the one-off Test against Afghanistan, the idea for Shami was to get back in the mould once again and recapture his form. But failing the fitness test has brought a new headache that suggests he not only needs to build his form but also regain his physical strength.
He has been having some niggles off late and there have been issues with him not being 100% match-fit as well. He, therefore, missed out on the 16:1 mark set by the Indian cricket team in relation yo the yo-yo test.
Shami would have wanted to use this Test match as an opportunity to make it big in the upcoming Test series against England starting August 1. But now he has put himself in a position of doubt for the same. The issue for Shami lies in the fact that India has plenty of quality pacers and even if he makes it in the squad for England, he won’t be assured of a start.
Moreover, all eyes will be on him once the Test squad for England series is announced. Will the selectors go with him, given what all has happened since the productive South Africa series?
If they do, then he will have to pass another yo-yo test that will test his physical attributes once again. With injury once again hampering his growth, there will be some testing times. The think tank would want the player to be mentally and physically strong after all that has happened with him.
Shami was expected to lead the Indian bowling attack against both Afghanistan and England, but now things have changed. The question lies in the fact that what is next for the pacer? Will he be able to get back to the reckoning or has missed the chance to grab the opportunity as a leader of the bowling attack?
India plays five Tests against England, starting August 1 at Lord’s.