Ahmed credits success to Akram, Gambhir
A 22-year-old Indian pace bowler is making his international debut against Pakistan. India are defending 167 and Pakistan need 25 runs from the last three overs with two wickets in hand. The captain calls on this debutant to bowl the 48th over and he responds with a wicket-maiden. The equation changes, the momentum shifts towards India and they emerge victorious by 10 runs. The debutant finishes with figures of 9-4-23-1. His name is Shami Ahmed.
The slightly built, soft-spoken and level-headed young lad sure has a long way to go before great things can be predicted for him. But the start hasn’t been too bad. Even the most seasoned campaigners have been seen losing their nerve in situations as tense as this, but Ahmed displayed calmness, sensibility and solidity – the main ingredients that go into making a successful death bowler.
Such was his discipline that it earned him praise from the man every fast bowler wants to be – Wasim Akram. The bowling legend, who also happens to be the bowling mentor of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR), Ahmed’s IPL team, was pleased with the temperament his ward showed in a highly critical situation.
After the game, Ahmed, who idolises Dale Steyn, caught up with bcci.tv and shared the pressure he felt when the game was inching towards a thrilling climax. He cherished receiving his India cap from his KKR captain Gautam Gambhir and had a special word of thanks for his teammates for making him look good with an outstanding fielding effort.
How would you describe this game?
Making my debut against Pakistan and performing pretty decently to help the team win – there’s not much more I could have asked for.
Can you put the feeling in words when you got your cap?
I’ve never been as happy in my life as I was the moment I got my first India cap. Gautam Bhai presented me the cap and told me that this is just the beginning. He said my aim should be to play for India for a long time. It was special coming from him.
You were terrific during the whole spell but more so when you bowled the 48th over – a maiden wicket!
I’m quite used to that situation when I play for Bengal because all the weight of the bowling is generally on [Ashoke] Dinda and me, especially in such situations. Having said that, international cricket is a different ball game altogether and there was pressure. The intensity is on a different level when playing against Pakistan. As a player, you’re perhaps much keener to do something special. But when bowling my last over, I decided to calm my nerves and try to do the sensible thing of stopping runs rather than going all-out for wickets. I knew as the run-rate goes high, the pressure on them will keep mounting.
The team was fabulous in the field today. How much does that help?
It makes a huge difference. As a bowler, even if I bowl a bad ball and don’t go for runs, it does boost my confidence. In fact, it motivates me further and I automatically tend to bowl follow it up with a good ball. It was very cold and it was difficult to keep the body warm and agile. Since the fielding was good, the intensity was high and that helped a lot.
What has Wasim Akram’s biggest contribution been in your bowling?
The small things that he’s taught me have made me a better bowler. Things like bowling with the old ball, reversing it and maintaining it, which line to bowl when you’re trying to reverse swing the ball. He’s taught me a lot when it comes to using the white ball.
Have you had any help from Gautam Gambhir?
As an opening batsman Gauti Bhai keeps telling me what a new ball should do to trouble the batsman. Every time I bowl to him in the nets [at KKR] he doesn’t only concentrate on his batting. He makes it a point to give me honest feedback on every delivery, which helps me improve.