The Board of Control for Cricket in India

Death bowling - Shami’s new forte

5th Jun, 2023
Even before Mohammad Shami walked out to bowl the 47th over, there were a few fireworks at the background that lit up the Feroz Shah Kotla. The result was obvious; West Indies were nine wickets down and India were just a wicket away from registering their first win in the five-match ODI series. Such was the confidence in Shami doing the finishing act that a select section from the crowd had already begun relishing an Indian victory.

Three balls later, Shami got tail-ender Ravi Rampaul caught of his own bowling ending up with match figures of 4/36. Shami would later be adjudged the Man of the match - a reward for all the hard work put behind the scenes in the build up to match day. Shami’s ability to swing the ball at a good pace is well known, but the fast bowler is working hard to get better on a different aspect of the game - death bowling. In this exclusive chat with, Shami speaks about getting the nitty-gritty of bowling right to become a successful death bowler.

Excerpts from the interview.

Two four-wicket hauls in two games. You seem to be on a roll.

(Smiles) I am really happy that the amount of hard work I am putting is paying rewards. It is always a satisfying feeling not just for me but for anyone to get the results after working hard on your skills.

Do you think 263 was a par score on that wicket?

We felt we would touch a score close to 280 but making 263 was also not so easy on that wicket. We have played here against Pakistan in 2013 and at that time we defended a total of 167. We were confident of defending that total after having defended a lower score in the past. We knew it wouldn’t be an easy task for West Indies to get to that total and that is exactly what happened. As a team we wanted to keep taking wickets at the right time to get a hold over the game.

You made your debut on this ground and have played a lot of IPL games for the Delhi Daredevils here. Did that experience work for you while bowling tonight?

It did play in mind having played here for the Delhi Daredevils before. This wicket was better than the one which we had during the IPL because those wickets were even slower. I was observing the West Indies bowling and the very first ball of the innings was slow and low. I felt it was really important to use a lot of slower bouncers and slower ones to be effective on this wicket.

Right since the England series, MS Dhoni has thrown the ball to you under tough circumstances and asked you to bowl at the death. How much are you enjoying this new responsibility?

It is a great feeling to have the backing and confidence of your captain. I have always been ready to bowl at any kind of situation. Be it bowling with the new ball, or in between innings or at the death, I have always been ready to take up whatever responsibilities are given to me at a given situation. Being a fast bowler I understand that it is very important to own up to the new ball and towards the fag end of the innings.

How have you worked towards being effective while bowling at the death?

It depends on the wicket and the conditions on offer. The thing about death bowling is that you have to be very clear and accurate with your plans. One small mistake while bowling at the death and you get hit for runs. As a bowler the focus is always on giving less width for the batsmen to hit. You have to use your mind while bowling under those circumstances. You have to figure out what kind of shots the batsmen are going to play and work your plans according to it.

How much of effort goes into being match-ready to bowl at the death?

A lot. I work hard at the nets to be ready for certain situations. During our practice sessions, we as bowlers mark certain areas to bowl at. While bowling at the practice sessions we keep shoes in front of the stumps and try to perfect our yorkers. It is something that really helps us to get the yorker right during the match and I believe we have been trying to get it right. I feel the yorkers are the most important thing for a bowler to have in his armoury if he has to get better while bowling at the death. There are a lot of other facilities nowadays to get better in a particular aspect of the game.

How do you work towards executing plans while bowling towards the end of the innings?

While bowling at the death you have to make sure that you bowl according to your field. If you bowl according to your field, then it gets tough for the batsmen to score runs off you. You have to keep in mind the fielding positions and the lengths you are going to bowl at. Also reverse swing holds key. If a bowler gets good reverse swing then he can always put the batsmen in a spot of bother. It is not easy to pick the reverse swing and it is fun when you get your reverse swing right. I don’t find it too difficult to bowl at the death because I know for a fact that the less mistakes I make the better it will be for me.