A spark that flourished into fire
Long before Mohammed Shami became the pivotal player in India's impressive journey to the final of the ongoing World Cup, the pacer was sharing his early struggles with Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza and a few reporters over a friendly chat at the team hotel during the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in England.
Shami recalled riding his bicycle for 25 kilometres every day from his hometown of Amroha to Sonakpur Stadium in Moradabad to train under the supervision of his childhood coach, Badruddin Siddique.
The then 27-year-old had also provided some advice for the Bangladeshi quicks, the most essential of which was, "You know it's important as a fast-bowler to act like a maniac, only then will you be able to bring the aggression out of you. Don't be content with your accomplishments and always remain hungry."
Shami may have moved on from his struggle to represent India by 2017, but he continued to overcome further hurdles, both on and off the field, to emerge as a world-class bowler and a key player in India's pursuit of World Cup glory, having bagged 23 wickets before Sunday's grand finale.
How Shami luckily got an opportunity in India's playing eleven in the mega event -- with Hardik Pandya's injury against Bangladesh opening the door after he warmed the bench for the first four games -- has already been widely discussed, unlike the phase in his life when he was nowhere near the limelight.
"Shami's father had brought him to Sonakpur Stadium in 2002. He was keen to learn with a huge passion to become a fast bowler. I witnessed the urge to give his best in every delivery that he bowled that day. The intensity remained the same till he bowled the last one. I immediately realised the boy has a spark in him," Badruddin told The Daily Star over phone.
Despite coming from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, Shami's aspirations were larger than life. He understood how to turn his limitations into strengths, and the only thing he knew was to work hard.
Shami, who stands no taller than 5'8", does not have the luxury of using his height to his advantage like other elite pacers, but he focuses on seam movement with impeccable control and consistency.
And even when there was little assistance off the surface at Mumbai's Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday, Shami was able to extract purchase, moving the ball both ways to grab seven wickets during India's 70-run semi-finals triumph over New Zealand.
"I think his ability to bowl seam-up delivery is phenomenal. It's important to have stamina as a pacer, which makes Shami stand out from the others. He is a gutsy bowler and never shies away from coming hard at you even if he gets smashed for a boundary. He is very consistent with his line and length which makes a fast-bowler deadly," Badruddin added.
Shami's comeback story could serve as an inspiration for Bangladeshi pacers, according to Badruddin, who feels that the Tigers pacers can also attain new heights.
"I think you guys have the quality and it's just a matter of time they start believing in themselves. No matter where you come from, you can reach the top but for that you need to have the fire in you like Shami does."