Kolkata: The chances of a Test return for Bengal pacer Mohammed Shami are brighter after the speedster joined the Indian team ahead of the series decider against Australia in Dharamsala. The Border-Gavaskar trophy has been pretty much an even contest with both the teams locked at 1-1. The Indian pace contingent which already has the likes of Umesh Yadav, Ishant Sharma and Bhuvneshwar Kumar would benefit heavily from someone like Shami who if fit, could provide that extra sting in the pace bowling department. The Dharamsala wicket would assist fast bowlers as mentioned by by the curator of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium Sunil Chauhan, who according to the Times Of India, feels the pitch for the final test would be ‘fast and bouncy.’
“It will behave as it has done naturally here. It will stay fast and bouncy. Our pitch is one of the most difficult for the batsmen (facing fast bowlers) in the Ranji Trophy and its nature won’t be altered. Our preparation is the same and efforts are focused at providing a track that a five-day game needs, with something in it for everyone,” said Chauhan.
Perhaps the inclusion of Shami becomes all the more probable under such circumstances where the pitch makes it easier for the quickies to find their rhythm. And we all have seen in the past, how lethal Shami could become both with the new ball and especially with the old one, with the kind of reverse swing he generates.
The Indian team looked all set to win in Ranchi, but a dogged resistance from Peter Handscomb and Shaun Marsh saved the day for Australia. In the end it turned out to be more of a moral defeat for the Indian bowlers. And captain Kohli hinted that Shami could be in the scheme of things for the fourth Test when he said, “We sent him (Shami) to play, wanted to give him match practice. I’ve not spoken to selectors but all kinds of possibilities are there approaching the next Test.”
Perhaps captain Kohli could afford to drop an extra batsman, may be Karun Nair and play Shami, if he wants to go for a three-pacer strategy. But what if Kohli doesn’t want to tamper with his batting unit and chooses to leave out a bowler in order to accommodate Shami? Whom would he leave out? If we go by the numbers, then Yadav, has had a better series than his compatriot Sharma. Yadav, barring that last innings in Ranchi has got a wicket each time he’s come on to bowl in this series and has provided crucial breakthroughs at regular intervals. Leaving him out wouldn’t be a wise choice. Sharma, for that matter has been good, but in patches. There are times when he’s completely unplayable and there are times when he’s hit around the park. That element of inconsistency could see him miss out on the fourth test, if Shami is to play, as it is the series, which is at stake here.
Shami last featured in a Test in November 2016 against England before he was ruled out with a thigh injury. After his rehabilitation, he’s proved his mettle once again when he played the Vijay Hazare Trophy final against Tamil Nadu, and ended with impressive figures of 4 for 26. Talk of match practice! Yes, the international arena is a different ball game, but Shami has proved time and again why he is one of the best with the ball in hand and his inclusion would be no less than a boost to the Indian bowling and a fitting reply to someone like a Shane Warne who believes that Australia would easily pocket the series in Dharamsala.