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Mohammad Sami: Pakistan pacer who was extremely quick and equally erratic

Mohammad Sami © Getty Images
Mohammad Sami © Getty Images

Mohammad Sami, born on February 24, 1981, is a Pakistan fast bowler. He has a hat-trick in Tests and ODIs as well as the feat of bowling the longest over in international cricket. It’s enough to indicate the two extremes of Sami’s career. Abhijit Banare looks back at the highlights of the Pakistani speedster’s cricketing journey marked with surprising comebacks.

Mohammad Sami represents a unique phase in Pakistan’s cricket. He was very much around when legends like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were part of the team. At the same time Sami was like a senior when the younger generation of pacers like Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and others were taking their baby steps into international cricket. But somewhere in the transition, Sami messed it up. Such is the talent pool of fast bowlers in Pakistan that it resembles a steady set of waves lashing the shore and receding away, only a few manage to remain in the limelight for a longer time. Sami had ample opportunities in the phase which went haywire.

Debut

Sami made a sensational Test debut on tour of New Zealand. He picked three wickets in the first innings and bettered it with a five-for in the second innings to script a memorable 299-run win for Pakistan. Sami’s career was off to a flier. Mark Richardson was Sami’s first international wicket. His One-Day International (ODI) debut was against Sri Lanka at Sharjah in April 2001, a month after his Test debut.

Best Bowling

Sami’s career-best bowling in ODIs came against New Zealand in December 2003 when he ripped through the last five of the New Zealand batting. Such was Sami’s pace that four of the five batsmen saw their stumps disturbed (Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum, Tama Cunning and Paul Hithchock). Sami picked five in a space of just two runs to finish with 7.5-2-10-5. It was the only five-for of Sami’s career in ODIs. In the 36 Tests though, Sami couldn’t better his debut performance.

Bowling style

Sami had a fluent run-up and a smooth bowling action with his left-arm pointing towards the sky and wrists slightly slanting at the point of release. He generated enormous pace and had the ability to consistently pitch it up. His love for bowling full eventually made him famous for delivering toe-crushing yorkers. And it reflects in his career summary where he has dismissed 99 batsmen either bowled or leg-before.

The hat-tricks

Call it luck or some exceptional pace and accuracy, Sami has a total of three hat-tricks to his name. Two of them came right at the start of his career and one came in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) for Duronto Rajshahi.

Bowling only in his sixth ODI, on February 15, 2002, Sami finished the West Indian tail to complete a 51-run victory in the second of the three-match ODI series. Chasing 233 at Sharjah, the West Indians were down 181 for seven with 16 overs in hand to chase the total. However, Sami with his pace and deadly yorkers ripped through the batting. Wicketkeeper-batsman Ridley Jacobs was gone leg-before for one. Sami’s yorkers were too much for bowlers Corey Colleymore and Cameron Cuffy as the ball met the stumps twice in as many deliveries to make Sami Pakistan’s sixth bowler to take a hat-trick in ODIs. But a month later, Sami entered the elite list to match his countryman Wasim Akram to take a hat-trick in ODIs and Tests.

In the Asian Test Championship final at Lahore in 2002, Sami packed off the lower-order of the Sri Lankan batting not before their batsmen had tormented the Pakistan attack scoring over 500. Sami dismissed Charitha Buddhika, Nuwan Zoysa and Muttiah Muralitharan in consecutive deliveries. Once again Sami’s pace didn’t require any assistance from the fielders as the first two batsmen were dismissed leg-before and Muralitharan was castled for a duck. Pakistan though went on to lose the Test by eight wickets.

Mohammad Sami had a clean action and could generate a lot of pace © AFP
Mohammad Sami had a clean action and could generate a lot of pace © AFP

Longest over

On the other side of the hat-trick heroics, Sami owns an infamous record of bowling the longest over in international cricket. He bowled a total of 17 deliveries in one over, which included seven wides and four no-balls against Bangladesh in an Asia Cup match at Colombo in 2004. Though, years later, Sami got some company in Abhishek Nayar who bowled a 17-ball over in a domestic match.

Sami was part of Pakistan’s 2003 and 2007 World Cup squads. But erratic bowling and leaking runs, slowly made his pace less important for the team. He played just three World Cup matches for Pakistan, one in 2003 and two at Kingston in the 2007 edition. He was finally dropped from the team in 2007.

Ironically, Sami, all through the late 2000s has declared that he was confident of his comeback. In the latter half of his 20s, Sami was still fit enough to continue, but there was hardly anything that could impress the selectors in comparison to the other pacers blooming. And when things don’t go your way, fate plays a cruel joke as well. Sami’s career diverted from the comeback plan towards the Indian Cricket League (ICL).

The T20 league which had annoyed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) ensured that the PCB also issued an ultimatum to ban players from playing in their national and domestic matches. Sami went ahead and made it to the Lahore Badshahs. He had a fair share of success in the league but once the conflict widened, Sami withdrew from the league and so did a host of other Pakistani players.

Comeback

During this time, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul were rising through the ranks. However Sami turned out to be the lone option in 2010 when the frontline pacers were nursing injuries with Pakistan facing Australia Down Under. Sami’s inclusion baffled many. He was included in the side for the Sydney Test. And he immediately floored Australia, getting Phil Hughes and Ricky Ponting in successive deliveries. He almost had Shane Watson dragging his front-foot ahead.

Sami impressed everyone but failed to find any chances on that tour. He next played against South Africa at Abu Dhabi. And suddenly the next thing you know about Sami’s performance in the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) earning him another national recall in 2012. In between his two comebacks, Sami lead the Karachi Blues in domestic cricket.

Such is Pakistan’s bizarre selection policy, while Sami made two comebacks, he didn’t feature in any of the contract list of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). With another set of Pakistani pacers rising in the form of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan and others, it’s unlikely that Sami will ever be able to regain a place in the side.

(Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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