Having spent 18 months out of the Indian team following a knee injury, Mohammed Shami’s wait of getting back into the scheme of things was an agonizing one. Shami was drafted in the squad for the Asia Cup earlier this year, but a relapse of the injury kept him away from participating. Then came the World T20, for which Shami was declared fit. But perhaps it was the lack of match practice that saw him warming the bench as Ashish Nehra and Jasprit Bumrah shepherded the pace attack.
The wait ended in July, and Shami, having last played a Test in January 2015 during the Sydney Test, was back with the red ball against the very same opponent he made his debut against. Result: 11 wickets in four matches with a best of 4/66 as India went on to clinch the series 2-0. However, it wasn’t until Day 5 of the Kanpur Test that Shami really looked in his elements. He had the old ball in hand and making it reverse.
After Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner struck a 102-run stand for the fifth wicket before, another partnership seemed to be developing between the 23-year-old and BJ Watling. That is, before Shami removed both batsmen in a span of two balls. Those two wickets brought India close to winding things up, which they eventually did wrapping the New Zealand innings for 236. Shami seemed to have reversed the clock to his Test debut when he single-handedly won the series with his reverse swing.
“There is a different joy in bowling reverse swing,” Shami told BCCI. “The old ball is one of my main weapons and I am comfortable bowling with the old ball. I know if I can get a hint of reverse swing, I can use it to good effect. The moment I start getting the ball to reverse, I get back to one of my bowling strong points.
“I love bowling reverse swing. When the ball is reversing I try to get the batsman out bowled or get him LBW. These two are the mode of dismissals that you get with reverse swing. When I get a feel that it is going to help reverse swing I look to hit the top of off-stump maximum number of times or else I aim at the batsman’s pad. Both these factors happened today against Watling and Craig.”
With an aim of making light work of the New Zealand innings, Virat Kohli began proceedings with Ashwin and Jadeja and waited for 29 overs in the day before giving Shami the ball. The fast bowler admitted to there being a reason behind it.
“The ball wasn’t reversing early on in the innings and we were waiting for the moment when we could reverse the ball,” Shami said analyzing the situation. “Then Kohli gave me the ball and I bowled a couple of deliveries and expected to get some reverse swing. We were waiting for the moment for three days and it reversed in the fifth day. The moment we could get a bit of reverse swing, we decided to execute it.
“There is a lot of work behind getting the ball to reverse swing,” Shami explained. “It is like team effort, every member of the team makes it a point to keep the ball dry at all times and maintain it throughout the day. There are times when you will get reverse swing but if it gets wet, you won’t be able to execute swing perfectly because the ball will tend to get heavy.”