IPL 2023: Why Shami is such a vital cog in the wheel for Gujarat Titans

The last five years had also been tough on him on the personal front with an unsavoury legal battle with his wife Hasin Jahan

Mohammad Shami wearing the purple cap (Photo Courtesy: @ImTanujSingh/Twitter)
Mohammad Shami wearing the purple cap (Photo Courtesy: @ImTanujSingh/Twitter)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The Purple Cap for the highest wicket-taker for IPL 2023 had been changing hands almost every other day, with senior paceman Mohammed Shami grabbing it with a four-wicket haul in Ahmedabad on Monday night. He now stands on 23 wickets, a tally which is likely to go up further as Gujarat Titans still have a league game left and then the play-offs.

The Titans’ performance had been nothing short of clinical again this year, with the team acquiring a ruthless streak with time – which used to be the hallmark of Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings in the earlier years. While Shubman Gill shone the brightest against a lacklustre Sunrisers Hyderabad, it was a comprehensive bowling performance that sealed it for them – with the experienced seamer Mohit Sharma also coming to the party.

Incidentally, this is the third occasion that Shami— now in his mid-30s and very much the elder statesman of the Indian pace attack across all formats— has crossed the 20-wicket mark in the IPL. While he was a vital cog in the wheel in the Titans’ fairytale run last year with 20 wickets, he stood out for Punjab Kings in 2019 with a similar haul.

Surely, it does not get any easier for the self-effacing man from little-known Sahaspur of Uttar Pradesh over the years, given the pounding the body takes as a fast bowler with his kind of action. The last five years had also been tough on him on the personal front with an unsavoury legal battle with his wife Hasin Jahan, with the new twist of an appeal at the Supreme Court for an arrest warrant for him.

Managing to shut out the noise, Shami had been excelling in what he does best— steaming into the batters like a railway engine, maintaining an upright wrist position that can form part of a manual for budding pacers and the ability to hit the deck and move the ball both ways. ‘’The plan is to make full use of the new ball by hitting the ball in the right areas,’’ he casually revealed during a post-match chat.

The Test match length that he manages to adhere to has yielded him rich returns, with the majority of his wickets coming in the Powerplay of IPL. If there was a complaint that Shami would sometimes be not as effective in the death overs in white ball cricket, he has sorted it out in recent years with the use of devastating yorkers and slower ones.

For someone who broke into the limelight primarily as a red ball bowler, it had been a remarkable journey— which could not have come without introspection and a burning desire to improve on the arsenal. In an era when younger fast bowlers are breaking down frequently and much is being made of the word workload management, Shami seems to adhere to the Wasim Akram mantra— keep on bowling to get better.

The IPL performance certainly puts him in a pole position to be the leader of the Indian pace bowling unit for the upcoming challenges like the World Test Championship (WTC) final next month and the 50-overs ICC World Cup in October-November. Shami had been playing such a role for quite some time now, though he wears it rather lightly on his sleeves.

‘’It comes automatically as after being in international cricket for so many years, I would like to share any input that youngsters may want. I am not going to play forever, so it will be great if I can pass on something to the youngsters,’’ Shami told this writer during an interview ahead of the WTC final last year.

He is surely doing his bit— both as a leader and performer!

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