In 1967,Abid Ali had set the Adelaide Oval on fire by snapping up Bob Simpson,Bill Lawry,Bob Cowper,Barry Jarman,Graham McKenzie and John Gleeson on his first day as a Test cricketer. His figures of 6/55 in 17 overs remain the best ever by an Indian medium-pacer on debut.
At Eden Gardens on Wednesday,Mohammed Shami fell short of Abids mark by two wickets and conceded 16 runs more,in his 17 overs. But his figures of 4/71 were the joint third-best for an Indian seam bowler in his first Test innings. And he made such an impact that the 40,000 fans who turned up on Day One temporarily put Tendulkar mania on hold and sang the name of the newcomer,who happened to be a Bengal cricketer.
MS Dhoni sprang a surprise in the morning by picking Shami as Bhuvneshwar Kumars new-ball partner,ahead of Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav. Shamis recent limited-overs form (six wickets in three innings in the recent ODI series against Australia) must have convinced his skipper to throw the 24-year-old into the deep end. Shamis first spell had all the nervousness of a debutant.
His next spell from the High Court end gave him his first Test wicket,when he surprised Kieran Powell with a bouncer. The left-handers top-edged pull went to Bhuvneshwar at mid-off.
It was the most satisfying moment. For any bowler,the maiden Test wicket is special, said Shami after the days play.
In his seven-over spell after lunch,he took two more wickets,and turned the day around with a formidable display of reverse swing and movement off the seam at 85-86mph.
The umpires changed the ball in the 40th over and it suddenly began reversing. Four overs later,Shami castled Marlon Samuels,who was threatening to take the game away from the hosts,with a skiddy delivery that reversed and also cut in sharply after pitching.
The ball he bowled to Denesh Ramdin,a vicious break-back,crashed into middle and off stump.
Shamis fourth was the West Indies No. 11 Sheldon Cottrell. It was a fullish delivery that swung in the air and rattled the timber.
The best thing about Shami is his action. Its not copybook,which is his strength. Usually batters try to follow a pattern in a bowler but this lad doesnt have a specific pattern. His deceptive action is the reason why he is so slippery off the deck. His action doesnt give any hint to the batters that he can be so quick. Also,he bowls at the perfect pace for the ball to reverse. Its great that he has been learning the nuances of reverse swing so early in his career,because this is the fast bowlers main weapon in Indian conditions, said Javagal Srinath.
Shamis Mohun Bagan Club coach Palash Nandy urged his ward to work harder. He is basically a lazy chap. Doesnt like to break too much sweat. But things have changed for him after coming to the India A and India fold. I hope he spends more hours in training to sharpen his skills,because not many bowlers come up with such variety, Nandy said.
Shami comes from a well-to-do family in Sahaspur,Uttar Pradesh,but had to toil hard after he migrated to Kolkata in 2006-07. His coach in Moradabad,Badruddin Siddique,contacted Sreemanta Hazra,his counterpart at Dalhousie Athletic Club in Kolkata,and insisted that he take the kid on board. This was after Shami was left out of the UP Ranji Trophy probables. Dalhousie AC had already finalised their squad but Hazra still included Shami and gave him a contract of Rs 1,000 per match.
He moved to Town Club next year. We didnt give him a significant pay hike,but what we offered him was a plate of biryani from Arsalan for every wicket. By then he became pretty fond of Kolkatas biryani and was extremely happy when we made him that offer, Town Club cricket secretary Debabrata Das said.
The next destination was Mohun Bagan,for whom he has been playing for the last three-and-a-half seasons. The salary was irregular to start with,though the club has recently cleared all his dues.
Shami impressed with his pace and movement on his Ranji Trophy debut for Bengal,against Assam,in 2010.
He was roped in by the Kolkata Knight Riders the next year and had the privilege of working under their mentor and bowling coach Wasim Akram. Two years with the Pakistan legend helped Shami grow rapidly. It reflected in his performance in the 2012-13 Ranji season,in which he took 28 wickets in just five matches. The ODI debut followed. Gradually he came into the reckoning for the longer format as well. He went to South Africa this year with India A and played the home series against West Indies A.
The sharp rise in his career graph notwithstanding,Shami has remained down to earth. Always shy facing the media,he looked uncomfortable at Wednesdays press conference. For me the biggest thing is to be in the same squad with Sachin Tendulkar. I dedicate this performance to him and my family, he said.
He acknowledged the role that the ball change had played. The ball we started with became soft after 35 overs. The ball change did help reverse swing.
The shy and unassuming young man has always charmed the local cricket fraternity with his simplicity. On Wednesday,he bowled over his home crowd with his bowling.
AFTER SACHINE,mR aNJALI tENDULKAR
After Sachins name was misspelled Sachine on a hoarding placed within the Eden Gardens on match eve,the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) was left embarrassed for the second day running when the veteran batsmans wife was welcomed with a Mr Anjali Tendulkar display on the giant screen. Tendulkars wife Anjali and son Arjun arrived at the ground at the stroke of lunch on the first day of the first Test here on Wednesday. And the Eden Gardens electronic scoreboard greeted them with a message: Welcome to Mr. Anjali Tendulkar And Master Arjun Tendulkar at Eden Garden,Kolkata On The Occasion Of 199th Test Match Of Sachin Tendulkar! It was displayed for close to half a minute before a CAB official went to the scorers room where the giant screen operator was sitting and ensured that the faux pas was pulled off. Incidentally,the operator was from the same company that got Sachins spelling wrong on the hoarding.
33,000 PRESENT,BUT EDEN HALF EMPTY
The Cricket Association of Bengal had expected the Eden Gardens to be packed from the first day of this Test but though a sizable number of spectators were present the official attendance recorded at 33,000 the stadium with a capacity of 67,200 was only half full. The CAB had claimed that the tickets were sold out on all five days but not everyone,who bought a seat seemed to have turned up on Wednesday. With Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan to start Day Two proceedings there is every possibility of Sachin Tendulkar walking out to bat later in the day at Eden Gardens,and this prospect could well see a capacity crowd. Cricket Association of Bengal joint-secretary Subir Ganguly said,Wankhede can never play host to even a crowd of this size.