Mohammed Shami has risen rapidly to spearhead the Indian bowling attack ©  Getty Images
Mohammed Shami has risen rapidly to spearhead the Indian bowling attack © Getty Images


Feb 20, 2014


Former Indian opener Aakash Chopra feels spearheading the inconsistent Indian bowling line-up may have taken its toll as Mohammed Shami’s slight dip in form and sharpness off late.


Making a Test debut during  Indian legend Sachin Tendulkar’s 199th Test match could have been daunting occasion for many for many a cricketer and a lesser man could have frozen under the arc lights but Shami rose to the occasion to rattle West Indies with a nine-wicket haul to propel India to a comfortable Innings-win inside three days.


The performance on a flat Eden Gardens wicket raised the hopes of many Indian fans and his ability to swing the ball was delight to watch and importantly, he was accurate and fast.


Like many Indian cricket lovers, Chopra admits he was enamoured by Shami when he first saw him bowl, “I was particularly impressed with his approach to the crease, close to the stumps release, high-arm action, perfect wrist position that enabled bolt upright seam presentation and also the areas in which he bowled.


“His pitch-maps for the first few games were quite identical as far as lines were concerned — always around the off-stump. Once you bowl from close to the stumps with a high-arm action, you don’t create angles and if you can follow it up with consistent off-stump line, the job of a batsman becomes reasonably difficult,” Chopra wrote in his column in Mid-Day.


Chopra says the bowler’s form had slightly tapered off since he announced he first came on to the scene and also questioned the Uttar-Pradesh pacers’ durability during the length of an Innings.


“It seems that the bowler we saw at the Eden Gardens and in the subsequent few matches didn’t take the flight to New Zealand, for both the accuracy and the speed has been missing. While he had some success with the new ball in the One-Day International (ODI) series, his old ball numbers and the potency in both the Test matches was below par.”


Chopra also opined that Shami was trying with too hard his out-swingers in the corridor outside the off stump and deliveries often ended up being pitched outside the off-stump where a batsman could free his arms. Chopra thinks there are far too many loose deliveries outside the leg stump as well which prompts many questions about the pacer.


“When he tries to bring it back to the right-hander, the ball drifts down the leg side for easy runs. It doesn’t come as a surprise that he looked half the bowler in New Zealand that he really is. The obvious questions that come to mind are — have international batsmen deciphered him and hence he’s trying different things? Or were the first few performances just a flash in the pan? Finally, is he carrying a niggle?”


The former Delhi opener felt the crushing workload as the single biggest reason behind Shami’s dip in form and also blamed other factors surrounding the workload which include bowling for long spells when the routine is different while playing a Ranji or a Duleep Trophy match.


“It’s just the workload that’s pulling him down. Ever since he made his Test debut in November, he has played 17 international matches (Tests and ODIs combined) and bowled over 1,900 balls. In the same period Mitchell Johnson has bowled 1,451 balls, Junaid Khan bowled 1,433 and Tim Southee only 1,395 balls. Becoming the spearhead of Indian fast bowling has come at a hefty price, for he’s been asked to bowl maximum number of overs amongst pacers in his first season at the highest level.”


Chopra concluded by saying that the latest exiting find of Indian cricket should be nurtured with care or the team management would have to face the consequences of Shami cutting down on his pace or suffering a burnout in the near future.