It was an unforgettable moment to remember forever. Mohammed Shami was met with a tremendous ovation last Sunday when he timidly went forward to accept the Arjuna Award from President Draupadi Murmu. The magnificent National Sports Awards ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan was a national celebration of the Indian pacer’s ascent to the pinnacles of greatness. It was, like in a fairy tale, the apex of a career damaged by years of adversity and hurdles the man had fought tirelessly to overcome.
It was, in a sense, a tribute to Shami’s pursuit of perfection, echoing the resolve of the Mahabharata epic’s Pandava hero, Arjuna. In the same way that the famous warrior perfected his archery abilities by concentrating solely on the fish’s eye, Shami has over the past several years shown extraordinary dedication and attention on the cricket pitch. One of the biggest highlights of his international career has been his unwavering ability to stay focused and provide the Indian cricket team with regular and impactful performances.
There were 26 sportsmen and para-athletes on the Arjuna Award list. The lone beneficiary who was unable to attend the ceremony was 19-year-old Esha Singh. She who on Monday purchased her ticket to the Olympics in Paris. Singh was competing in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Jakarta.
Cricketer Mohammed Shami, who was the standout player for India in the 2023 ODI World Cup, was one of the 25 honorees in attendance at Durbar Hall. After failing to make the starting eleven for the first four matches of the competition, Shami entered the game as a substitute and ended up taking the most wickets with 24—three of which were five-wicket hauls, the highest total for any bowler in a single 50-over ICC event.
Mohammed Shami Lately
In the last 24 months, Shami has become the mainstay of India’s fast-bow. When Bumrah was sidelined due to injury, Shami led India’s pace attack, which helped them get to the World Test Championship finals.
A lesser mortal would have given up, but Shami’s unwavering will allowed him to recover and produce a number of incredible performances in Tests, ODIs, and the IPL. In reality, he took home the Purple Cap for the Gujarat Titans in the IPL 2023 after taking 28 wickets. Shami’s success was indeed made possible by his exceptional accuracy and seam movement, which had veterans like Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram applauding his seam control and ability to make the ball nip off the ground – a rare technique in cricket. Shami was instrumental in Gujarat’s IPL success in the first couple of seasons.
His skill bore full fruit in the 2023 World Cup as he picked up 24 wickets. At an average of just 10.70 and a strike rate of 12.20. Apart from being the leading wicket-taker, the most interesting aspect of his feat was indeed that he wasn’t in the playing XI for the first four matches! Only an ankle injury to Hardik Pandya prompted the team management to play him. And his seven-wicket haul in the semifinals against New Zealand was the stuff that dreams are made of. In a high-run-scoring contest, Shami first broke the resistance of the New Zealand top order and then, in a later spell, finished the job by giving away only 57 runs in his quota of overs.