A blessing and a bane: Being a pace bowler and Shami’s brother

Meet Mohammed Kaif, the new addition to Bengal’s pace attack, who faces a heightened pressure of expectations for being Team India star Mohammed Shami’s brother

Mohammed Kaif in action at Bengal nets. (Photo: CAB media)
Mohammed Kaif in action at Bengal nets. (Photo: CAB media)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

He is not quite a star son like Rohan Gavaskar or Arjun Tendulkar, but it’s no mean task to mark your run-up as the brother of India’s premier pace bowler Mohammed Shami. After preparing himself with List A matches for Bengal over the last few years, 27-year-old Mohammed Kaif Shami has finally managed to break through in Ranji Trophy – arousing fair bit of media scrutiny all around. 

It was at the historic Green Park Stadium in Kanpur during Bengal’s last game against Uttar Pradesh – the state of birth for Shami brothers – that Kaif made his Ranji debut. The strong run-up to the wicket bore an uncanny resemblance with the senior pro in Indian attack as he needed a 5.5 over spell to return with a haul of four wickets for 15 runs, ending the drawn game with seven wickets in all.     

“Finally after a long struggle, you got Ranji trophy cap for Bengal. Cheers!! Great Achievement!! Congratulations, I wish you a great future ahead! Give your 100% and Keep continuing hard work & do well (sic),’’ Shami, the highest wicket taker in the last 50-overs World Cup with 25 scalps, greeted his younger brother in a social media post. 

The ongoing match against Chattisgarh at the Eden Gardens also has Kaif sharing a potent new ball attack with Ishan Porel, a former Under-19 World Cup winner and Suraj Sindhu Jaiswal. Incidentally, the emergence of Shami about a decade back had ushered in an impressive pipeline of pace bowlers from Bengal in the likes of Mukesh Kumar and Akash Deep – both being away on international commitment now. Ashok Dinda, a senior, was of course a predecessor for them. 

Speaking to ABP Ananda ahead of Bengal’s match against Chattisgarh, the sturdy Kaif admitted a kind of performance anxiety of being Shami’s brother. ‘’Yes, there is pressure but the likes of Laxmi bhai (coach Laxmi Ratan Shukla) and Sourashis Lahiri (assistant coach) have been quite protective and advise me to bowl to my strength. I also keep getting constant feedback from bhai jaan (brother Shami), but ultimately it’s me who has to deliver in the middle,’’ he said.      

In the nine List A games that Kaif had played for Bengal, he had picked up 12 wickets. For the last decade or so, Shami had brought him over to Kolkata to facilitate a career in local club cricket and Kaif had done the hard yards before earning his stripes for Town Club – where his famous brother once played under the guidance of Debabrata Das, a veteran official at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB), who used to be his local guardian. 

The lockdown years often saw video clips of Shami sweating it out with Kaif at the nets which they have installed at the former’s sprawling farmhouse in Sahaspur of Amroah district in UP. ‘’Much as I may have made some progress in both batting and bowling in the last few years, I have never consciously tried to follow him (Shami), though people do say that there is a kind of similarity in action,’’ said Kaif, who now stays in a south Kolkata flat by himself. 

Unlike Shami who had to start from scratch in Kolkata, Kaif has got a roof above his head on a platter and now a break with the Bengal team. It’s upto him to make it count from here onwards! 

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