Mohammed Shami became the bowler he is now because of Wasim Akram

Mohammed Shami made his Test debut for India against the West Indies © IANS

From collecting used match balls to opening the bowling, Shami has come a long way, says Derek Abraham.

Seven years. That’s all it took Mohammed Shami to make the big leap from the maidans in Moradabad to the hallowed territory that is Eden Gardens. And, on Wednesday, the 23-year-old debutant put up a stupendous display of fast bowling to place India in command in the first Test against the West Indies.

There’s more to Shami than his pace and that easy-as-you-like ability to reverse the ball. Ask Badruddin Siddique and he goes down memory lane. “His father, a farmer from Moradabad, brought him to me when he was just 15 or 16. All this may surprise you, but Shami used to reverse the ball even then,” the veteran coach informs.

“Yes, that my debut Test is at the Eden is a big thing for me. It’s my home ground. I made my debut with Sachin Tendulkar in the team. So I’m delighted. The biggest thing is that it’s my home ground and I’m playing with Sachin Tendulkar,” said an elated Shami.

Before Shami joined Siddique’s nets, Shami had only played tennis ball cricket. So how on earth did he master the art? “That’s a long story,” Siddique says, before adding, “Whenever he took part in junior tournaments in Moradabad, Shami would ask the organisers if he could carry home the used match balls.” His kit bag a few kilos heavier, Shami would return to his ‘base camp’ and polish one side of the balls.”

Siddique doesn’t shy away from talking about the rajneeti (politics) in Uttar Pradesh for his ward’s eventual move to West Bengal. “It’s their loss, really. I took him for the under-16 state trials and he clearly stood out. But you know how things are in UP. He was ignored,” he recalls.

But that’s when Abdul Munaim stepped in. A respected coach in Kolkata, Munaim took Shami under his wings. “Badruddin Siddique is a good friend and he sent Shami to me. I got him a deal with Town Cricket Club and later Dalhousie Cricket Club,” says Munaim, who represented Bengal at the U-17 and U-19 levels. “A couple of years later, he played for Mohun Bagan Athletic Club. And soon, he was part of the Bengal Under-23 side.”

In 2010, Shami made his Ranji Trophy debut. His level-headed approach in the just-concluded One-Day International (ODI) series against Australia may have prompted the think-tank to give him a chance in Tests.

Both Siddique and Munaim talk about the impact Wasim Akram has had on Shami. “Forget me and Munaim, working with Akram has made Shami what he is. Shami was always fast but, without direction, pace is useless. Akram taught him to control his pace. And look at the way he swings the new and semi-new ball now. All credit to Akram,” Siddique says.

(The writer is Principal Correspondent at DNA, where the above articl first appeared)