Few people have witnessed the resurgence of Mohammed Shami quite like Bharat Arun. The former India bowling coach was a central figure in bringing this version of Shami to the fore. Battling personal demons, fitness and form, Arun triggered a 360-degree transformation in Shami, who from being just another India quick to one of its pace spearheads. Shami was on the verge of quitting when Arun and ex-head coach Ravi Shastri turned his career. Following a rehab stint at the NCA where Shami worked on his fitness, the India pacer emerged as a different bowler altogether. And the rest as they say is history.
Shami, along with Jasprit Bumrah became an inseparable part of the Indian playing XI wreaking havoc across SENA nations. From being India’s leading wicket-taker in the 2019 World Cup to picking 16 wickets from five games in this edition of the tournament, Shami is giving Mohammed Siraj stiff competition for a place in the team if there’s room for only two frontline pacers. But as India gear up for their all-important World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, Arun has a crucial piece of advice for Shami: to run in and run in fast.
“I remember Mohammed Shami saying once, ‘I need to run in like a horse to be successful’. All this World Cup, Shami has been running in – galloping, you could say – fluently, with an amazing rhythm that complements his bowling skills,” Arun wrote in his column for ESPNCricinfo.
“Fast bowling is all about a feeling inside that drives the bowler to run in with rhythm and confidence, which in turn enable him to pull off special feats. Shami is being driven by that feeling now. With the kind of momentum he builds in his run-up, and his smooth, repetitive action, he has been able to pitch the ball like he is skimming a flat stone on water, skidding through batters’ defences”
Of all the wickets Shami has taken in the 2023 World Cup – including two 5-wicket-hauls, the one wicket that stands out is that of England all-rounder Ben Stokes. Shami set up Stokes like only a champion bowler could – mixing it up well and tempting the hero of the 2019 World Cup by beating him outside off and then leaving him clueless with a fast inswinger. Arun called it a ‘mouth-watering spell’ and explained how Shami was always a step ahead of Stokes during that riveting passage of play.
“The first five balls he faced from Shami, Stokes was beaten four times, outside off, and hit on the pads once. The next two balls he got his bat to, but no runs came off them. He was beaten outside off again the following delivery. When the batter is standing deep in the crease, like Stokes was, he allows the ball to move more after pitching. Also, the length that Shami was bowling, he was going to hit the stumps more often than not. Most times when that is the case, the ball is skidding onto the batter rather than bouncing as such, because of the angle and trajectory at which the ball is being delivered,” added Arun.
“Stokes thought that by attacking Shami, as he attempted to do, he might force him to alter his length. When a batter is charging, though, in such situations, it is usually because he is uncomfortable. Shami will have understood the lengths he was pitching were troubling Stokes. Most bowlers in such situations would think to go shorter when the batter charges them. That lets the batter win the battle.”
Arun may no longer be part of the Indian set-up anymore, seeing Shami in full flow and the kind of rhythm that he is, gives the former fast bowling coach a feeling of joy. Shami was absent from India’s Playing XI when they faced New Zealand at the World Cup in England four years ago. However, with no second thoughts this time, Arun conveys the same message to Shami that the Indian pacer had for him all those years ago.
“I haven’t spoken to Shami this World Cup, but I can see him totally enjoying his bowling. The only message I have for him is: Shami, tu ekdum ghode ki tarah bhaag raha hain jiss tarah se tu bowling kar raha hai. [You are running in like a horse.] Just go and enjoy yourself,” he said.