Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 11th 2013 Contents A45
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The Dalhousie Athletic Club is
about a kilometre from Eden Gar-
dens in Kolkata. It has a tent that
serves as a restaurant and bar for
its members, it has a practice
pitch---half turf, half cement---and
an open field of wild grass for a
cricket ground. The ground is
unkempt, the grass is long, and the
pitch can t be seen. Dalhousie is not
a club known for its cricket.
About six years ago, Sumon
Chakraborty of Dalhousie Club called
Debabrata Das of Town Club---one
of the better cricket clubs in the
city---to come to Rajasthan Club and
have a look at a young fast bowler.
Das, a former assistant secretary
of the Cricket Association of Bengal,
asked Chakraborty what the hurry
was. He was told it is "a small pearl,
kho jayega [he will get lost]". Das says
he reached the ground within 20
minutes, saw ten to 15 players prac-
tising there, and could easily spot
Das recollects: "I asked him,
What s your name? Mohammed
Shami, he said. Where are you
from? Sahaspur in Uttar Pradesh.
Do you want to play? Yes. Your
contract is Rs 75,000 per annum,
and 100 per day for your lunch.
"There was one problem. Where
will I stay? he asked. I said, My
house. I took Shami home and told
my wife this guy will stay with us.
After that, he started playing for
Playing for Dalhousie before mov-
ing to Town Club, Shami had shown
pace, but Das says that Dalhousie s
Chakraborty and Sumonto Hajra felt
the bowler needed to move to a bigger
club. Until then, Das says, Shami
would stay with other Dalhousie
players in the tent or shared hotel
rooms, and would be put on the train
back to Moradabad, the closest town
to Sahaspur, 20km away, where
Shami s father ran a spare-parts store
for tractors. Shami would make Rs
500 per match at Dalhousie, accord-
ing to Das.
After taking four wickets in the
first innings of his Test debut, and
before his five-for in the second,
Shami made it a point to thank his
parents at the press conference. They
had let him follow his dream without
putting pressure on him to start earn-
ing. It helped that his father had
played a lot of cricket - he bowled
fast, too - in his village, and appre-
ciated the dedication it would take
to make a career out of the sport.
The problem was, Sahaspur didn t
have any cricket facilities. No
grounds, no pitches, only mud fields.
Let alone cricket facilities, Sahaspur
still gets electricity only for eight
hours a day.
Pace and precision
"I saw the pace, though," says Tou-
sif Ali, Shami s father. "I could tell
he had the skill. His elder brother
also bowled fast, but he had a stone
in his kidney, after which he joined
me in the business. The younger
brother also bowls fast, but I knew
Shami had the pace. I wanted him
to give it a good go."
As Shami graduated college, he
started playing in Sonakpur in
Moradabad. Badruddin Siddique
coached him for a year or so and
Tousif went a step ahead, again.
Mohammed Shami bowled with
great pace and precision, India v
West Indies, 1st Test, Kolkata, 3rd
day, November 8, 2013
Mohammed Shami s performance
in his debut Test repaid the faith of
his family, who allowed him to pursue
a dream despite numerous obsta-
"Uttar Pradesh doesn t even have
a club system," Tousif says. "You have
to keep going for trials here, where
you sometimes get rejected after
bowling two-three balls. So I didn t
want the story to end with multiple
trials. Badruddin knew some people
in Kolkata, so we sent him there."
This is where Tousif s knowledge
of the progress of his son s career
ends. It was a risk sending a 16-year-
old to a new city, where he didn t
know anybody, and his only sellable
skill was the ability to bowl fast. Tou-
sif says if Shami faced hardships, he
didn t tell him. It s a story resonant
with large parts of the migrant labour
population in India. A year later,
though, Town Club happened, and
Das took Shami under his wing.
"Whenever I came to office, I
dropped him off to play cricket," Das
says. "After cricket, I used to take
him home while returning from work.
After one year, I observed he was
growing. He was not into gymming
or weight training. Running, running,
running and net practice. He would
take a new ball at the beginning of
the net [session], and finish with the
last ball, from 1pm to 4pm."
The workers at Dalhousie say sim-
ilar things about the scrawny little
boy who wanted to bowl fast. They
used to doubt him, and Shami was
keen to prove them wrong. He liked
the workers there and he still comes
back to the club whenever he is in
"[He is a] very simple person," Das
says. "Very fond of sleeping, very
fond of eating biryani. In every match
against a big team - Town v East
Bengal, Town v Mohun Bagan -
whenever he was playing, if we need-
ed two urgent wickets, I used to tell
him, Shami, phaad de yaar [Burst
through them]. Biryani? he would
ask. Yes, I will give biryani. Achha
gaind do [Okay give me the ball] ."
And he would get the wickets.
There would be a lot of friendly
sledging too. Once, in a match against
Eastern Railway, Town Club were
struggling to get the last two wickets.
Das recalls: "I told him, Ghar mein
jaake ammi ka kapda leke so ja [Go
home, wear your mother s clothes
and go to sleep]. He said, Gaind de.
And boom, boom! Two batsmen
"Shami never wanted money. His
goal was the stumps, the sound that
comes from hitting the stumps. Ever
since I saw him, most of his wickets
were bowled. He bowls with an
upright seam, on or just outside off
stump, and gets it to cut back in."
Das says Shami still takes his
advice in all matters. "Four months
ago, he came to my house and said
he wanted to purchase a flat," says
Das. "I did the needful for the reg-
istrations etc. without any cost,
except for the stamp duty. I think he
has taken possession of the flat now."
If Shami doesn t go after the
money, if he still respects Das so
much, why, then, did he leave Das
Town and go to Mohun Bagan?
"I let him go," Das says. "If I hadn t
let him go, India wouldn t have got
Shami today. When he was in our
club, he made it to the Bengal squad,
but didn t get to play in the XI. I saw
the kind of facilities Mohun Bagan
has, the kind of political power
Mohun Bagan has, the kind of finan-
cial power Mohun Bagan has, the
muscle Mohun Bagan has. We can t
match it. And I wanted the boy to
get a chance.
"Yesterday [on Friday], he told me
he doesn t want to play for Mohun
Bagan anymore. He is a very emo-
On Friday, Shami ran through the
West Indies line-up with 30,000
Kolkatans cheering him on, intim-
idating the opposition batsmen.
Watching in Sahaspur, the family
saw their faith had paid off. People
now identify Tousif as Shami s father,
and he is proud of it. Seven years
ago, he took the risk of sending his
son alone into the unknown. A year
later, another man took the risk of
bringing home a boy he knew noth-
ing about, except that he bowled fast.
Cricket can do with more such
fathers, club owners and, of course,
boys who bowl fast.
The PCB will not renew Pakistan head
coach Dav Whatmore s contract, when
it expires ahead of the Asia Cup in late
February 2014. His last assignment with
Pakistan will be the upcoming Sri Lanka
series in the UAE, between December
2013 and January 2014.
ESPNcricinfo understands that PCB
had been mulling releasing Whatmore
after the Champions Trophy in June, in
which Pakistan didn t win a match, but
held back on such a move to avoid the
compensation (three months salary) they
would have had to pay him if they ter-
minated the contract.
"We are not against a foreign coach,"
PCB Interim Management Committee
head, Najam Sethi, recently said in the
UAE. "Our problem is, with foreign
coaches our players are not able to com-
municate freely. The players are not that
well educated when it comes to English.
So there is a lot of problem in commu-
nicating with each other and they don t
Whatmore was appointed head coach
in March 2012 and Pakistan have failed
to win a Test series under him, and have
only won two out of the 10 matches
they ve played so far.
club to country
Mohammed Shami's performance in his debut Test repaid the faith of his
family, who allowed him to pursue a dream despite numerous obstacles.
No extension for Whatmore as Pakistan coach
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