India A has suffered an embarrassing defeat in the Caribbean, but the picture isn’t all that gloomy. A few players have put their hands up and used the opportunity to stake a claim for higher honours. Nishad Pai Vaidya reviews the performance of one such player - fast bowler Shami Ahmed - and talks to his Ranji Trophy coach, WV Raman, to know more.
Having suffered the ignominy of an embarrassing defeat, it is a natural reaction to introspect and find the chinks in the armour. With the youngsters being looked at as possible replacements for the aging guard in the senior side, India A’s defeat in the Caribbean has come as a rude shock. However, the picture isn’t all that gloomy as Cheteshwar Pujara, Akshay Darekar and Shami Ahmed used the opportunities to make an impression. Pujara and Darekar's exploits have been discussed on CricketCountry in previous articles, thus it would be fitting to review Ahmed and examine what he holds for the future.
A fast-bowler from Bengal, Ahmed has been impressive in the limited-overs domestic competitions during the 2011-12 season and it was those performances which fast-tracked his selection into the A team. Not many would have heard his name as domestic cricket is now overshadowed by the Indian Premier League (IPL). Ahmed has been a part of the Kolkata Knight Riders since the 2011 season, but is yet to make an appearance for them.
In the Caribbean, Ahmed picked 13 wickets and bowled a number of crucial spells. His contributions weren’t restricted to that sphere as he played a crucial knock as well.
In the first game, India A were in a muddle while chasing a small score and only Pujara held fort at one end. The skipper found an able partner in Ahmed who played a determined knock of 27 not out to see India through.
The whole performance won him the praise of the India A coach, Lalchand Rajput who said, “He is strong, bowls at a sharp pace, and throughout the day. Even in the third spell of the day, he bowls around 140 kmph. Even when batting he doesn't give up; you have to get him out. He is one bowler to watch out for."
For a country that hasn’t produced too many genuine quicks, a 140+ reading on the speed gun symbolises tremendous hope and raises expectations. Recently, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron have shown the ability to bowl fast and are being looked at as long term options. Parwinder Awana’s emergence during the IPL has been encouraging too. The little-known Ahmed may be the next in line and going by his performance and the acclaim he has received, he should be groomed and moulded into a finished commodity.
WV Raman, the Bengal coach, says: “Ahmed is an exciting bowler. His biggest strength is his attitude and never-say-die spirit and clocks around the 140 kmph mark at his best.”
Raman was appointed coach for Bengal in 2010 – the year Ahmed made his debut. “My first impression was that here was an exciting talent because he was head and shoulders above many other young fast bowlers I had seen in recent times,” he said.
Interestingly, Ahmed had been picked for the Caribbean sojourn ahead of Awana and other bowlers who picked more wickets in the domestic first class season. In fact, Ahmed had only played four First-Class fixtures during the 2011-12 season and six overall before leaving for the West Indies.
The natural question is: Was rushed into higher cricket?
Raman put such fears to rest when he said, “It is not how little he has played. It is about how quickly he has forced his way into the A side with crucial performances in the Ranji and Duleep games. Still one should probably give him a season to seamlessly fit into the bigger league.”
On the question of pace and whether he can further the hopes presented by Yadav and Aaron, WV Raman said, “The possibilities are definitely encouraging. Shami has the pace, ability and attitude. The key will be improving quickly henceforth. However, Shami's fitness is far superior to both Umesh and Varun.”
Raman’s last comment nearly echoes the sentiments of Rajput. His fantastic fitness allows Ahmed to bowl at a good pace even into his third spell - late in the day. India need fast bowlers who can maintain the tempo throughout the day and sent jitters down the oppositions’ spine. As mentioned by the Bengal coach, Ahmed needs to be given at least a season to make a transition. If he can pick up on pace and continue bowling those spells, India may have a serious fast-bowling prospect for the future.
(Nishad Pai Vaidya is a club-level cricketer with an analytic mind and a sharp eye. It was this sharpness which spotted a wrong replay in IPL4 resulting in Sachin Tendulkar’s dismissal. Some of his analytical pieces have come in for high praise from cerebral former cricketers. Nishad can also be followed on Twitter)