Minutes before the Eden Gardens Test began Wednesday,Mohammed Shami was handed over his maiden Test cap by Ishant Sharma.
Ironic,considering Shami had just replaced Ishant in the eleven for the match against the West Indies. But by the time the Test finished Friday,one that Shami helped end prematurely,the debutant had snatched away Ishants long-held title of pace spearhead as well.
With a breathtaking display of reverse swing bowling,Shami scissored through the West Indies batting order late on day three to finish with a five-wicket haul in the second innings.
His figures of 5/47 in the second innings ensured that Darren Sammys side were bowled out for just 168 and India won the match by an innings and 51 runs. The burst took his match haul to 9/118 the most by an Indian pacer on debut,bettering Munaf Patels 7/97 in Mohali in 2006.
All this took place at his home ground.
The packed house at the Eden had witnessed something rare from an Indian bowler at an Indian ground speed of over 140 kmph,banana-swinging deliveries and flying stumps.
So special was the unfolding drama that by time the players left the field,the usual crowd chorus of Sachin,Sachin had changed to Shami,Shami.
M S Dhoni was certain that India had finally been blessed with what they were looking for a true tearaway.
Shami is a fantastic find,someone who has great skills, the Indian captain said at the presentation ceremony. Everyone was reversing the ball today. But what made Shamis reverse swing special was the length he bowled.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy agreed.
Our bowlers were either too full or too short. Shami had that nagging back-of-a-length spot, he said. Thats how it ought to be done.
That length confused West Indiess batsmen. Caught in two minds to either push forward or stay back,Shamis victims ended doing neither. Several middle stumps were flattened.
He did not take any wickets in his first couple of spells with the new ball. But once the leather was about 30 overs old,scruffed up through wear and tear,he was unstoppable.
All his wickets came after over number 31. Two of them fell together in the 49th over. Off the second ball,Sammy positioned himself to block one swinging in wildly from well outside off stump. But the drastic dip in the balls height hid under the West Indies captains willow. Then it pitched and straightened,boomeranging against the middle stump.
Sammy looked like he had seen a ghost. Just like Shane Shillingford,two balls.
Kapil Dev,however,looked like he had seen a prodigy.
When Ramiz Raja – the former Pakistani player who had captained the gurus of reverse swing,Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis – asked him to point out Shamis stand-out feature,Kapil said: I cant. A true fast bowler has many facets brains,pace,swing and a big heart. Shami ticks all the above.