Mohammed Shami
Indian captain Rohit Sharma with pacer Mohammed Shami during the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup warm-up game against Australia at the Gabba in Brisbane, Australia, on October 17, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Mohammed Shami nailed his yorkers in the slog. His three wickets and a runout in Over 20 helped India defeat Australia in the Brisbane warm-up game ahead of the T20 Cricket World Cup. Shami’s death bowling skills didn’t come as a surprise since I’ve been watching him do just that in the last two IPL seasons. So, the surprise was his omission from the India World Cup squad.

Actually, Shami hasn’t played for India in a while. He last played for India in the 2021 T20 World Cup in the UAE, when India failed to qualify for the semifinals. That’s baffling, given Shami’s fine spells in the Indian Premier League for the Kings XI Punjab and the Gujarat Titans.

Maybe, India wanted to groom youngsters. That could be the only explanation since coach Rahul Dravid continued experimenting with Avesh Khan, Harshal Patel and Arshdeep Singh. Interestingly, IPL displays fetched the three a place in the India squad.

Why India will miss Jasprit Bumrah

The clamour for Shami’s return grew shrill after Avesh Khan didn’t perform to expectations. Even then, Shami was named only as a reserve. I thought that was strange: because that was an acknowledgement of Shami’s skills, yet the selectors didn’t find him good enough the make the squad. And that happened only after Jasprit Bumrah was laid low by injury.

India’s prospects would have been better if Shami and Bumrah played together at the World Cup. In the bouncy wickets of Australia, Shami would be a wicket-taker in the powerplay and staunch the run-glut in the slog overs. That would have given captain Rohit Sharma an extra attacking option.

In Bumrah’s absence, Shami will have to bear much of the burden since Bhuvaneshwar Kumar has become expensive in the slog. Well, Harshal Patel and Arshdeep are also death-over specialists. Still, Bumrah would have given a realistic shot at the title. His ability as a strike bowler will be missed on the pace-friendly wickets of Australia.

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Despite the variety, India’s bowling is not strong enough to win the World Cup. The powerful batting will help India chase down targets, but defending totals would be difficult with this attack. That’s when Bumrah’s pace would have helped.

Let’s be realistic. There’s no Bumrah, but we have Shami. A Shami is not enough to win the World Cup. The rest of the bowling pack should turn in a consistent performance if India have to add to the 2007 win.

Shami would be pleased with his Brisbane performance. More so since a COVID-19 infection had robbed him of precious time to finetune his game ahead of the World Cup, and there were doubts about his match fitness. He bowled only one over in Gabba: that was near-perfect.