Happy that I did my job, says Shami after dream Test debut
He had featured in just 15 first class games when he received a surprise call-up to join the national team, ahead of the third one-dayer against Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla in January.
Mohammed Shami, referred to as Shami Ahmed then, was surprised, no doubt. Yet, he kept his composure to take 1 for 23, even as India earned a consolation victory. During that spell the young seamer bowled as many as four maidens, the most by an Indian bowler on debut.
About 10 months and 13 ODIs later, the 23-year-old got an equally surprising Test call-up. The fact that he generates consistent pace and is among the wickets – he picked seven wickets in three matches in the just-concluded one-day series against Australia -- coupled with Ishant Sharma’s indifferent form, prompted the think tank to take the risk. (Ironically, it was Ishant who presented Shami his Test cap)
At the end of the day, they were vindicated. Shami had figures of four for 71, on his home ground, as India dismissed the West Indies for 234 on the opening day of the first Test.
Image: Mohammed Shami celebrates the dismissal of Sheldon Cottrell
'It was my dream to play Test cricket'
Indeed, it was a memorable start for the local lad, as he registered the best figures by an Indian on debut at the Eden Gardens, besting Ghulam Ahmed’s four for 94 against the same opposition back in 1948.
Obviously, he was visibly ecstatic.
“It's a big thing for me that I could bowl well on my home ground,” said Shami, adding that he was unaware about his selection until much later.
“It was during the team meeting I learnt that I was playing. I didn't know about it beforehand,” explained the soft-spoken cricketer.
“Like all other players,” he confessed, “I was also ready for a Test. It is better to be prepared. Having been part of the one-day squad for some time now it was my dream to play Test cricket.”
The 23-year-old had a shaky start, going for 18 in his first three overs. However, a change of ball in the 41st over did the trick.
“It wasn't that I was nervous early on,” explained Shami. “It was just that the first ball was a bit softer and didn't swing much.
“The new ball was swinging and all I had to do was focus on my line and length and work according to what was planned in the team meeting.
“I was aware that I'd concede a few boundaries, but I also knew in the end I'd get wickets. I am happy that I did my job.”
Image: Mohammed Shami
'My name has always been Mohammed Shami and it is what is should be'
Having matched up to expectations in his very first match, the usually media-shy cricketer got a tad emotional.
“The place I have come from -- a village named Sehazpur Ali Nagar in the Amroha district of Uttar Pradesh -- there's nothing to start with. I’ve faced challenges throughout my life.
“My grandfather, father, uncle and brother were all very good fast bowlers, but they couldn’t play at any level,” he recalled, adding, “However, my mother backed me a lot and persuaded my father to send me to Kolkata (in 2007). And here I am.”
Now that he has made his mark in all forms of the game he could afford to make a request. And he did make one.
“My real name is Mohammed Shami. I’d like all to address me by this name,” said the bowler, who played as Shami Ahmed in his first few matches despite requesting the board (BCCI) for a change last November.
“I have never been named Ahmed. My name has always been Mohammed Shami and it is what is should be,” he added.
Image: Mohammed Shami