Mohammed Shami’s exceptional performance at the 2023 World Cup has reached unprecedented heights, as his third 5-wicket haul became instrumental in steering India clear of a New Zealand threat during the semi-finals. The specter of a heart-wrenching defeat, reminiscent of their loss in Manchester four years ago, loomed large as New Zealand nearly shattered the hopes of over a billion Indians. In a match marked by legendary moments, Virat Kohli achieved a milestone with his record 50th ODI century, paying homage to his hero Sachin Tendulkar. Shreyas Iyer contributed with his second consecutive World Cup hundred, propelling India to a formidable 397 – the highest score ever recorded by any team in an ICC tournament knockout. Despite this, New Zealand, known for their resilience, came close to executing their trademark dramatic turnarounds, only to be thwarted by the brilliance of Mohammed Shami.
The pressure on India was palpable after posting a score around 400, a rarity in cricket. New Zealand, led by an audacious 181-run partnership between Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell, applied significant pressure. The Wankhede Stadium, known for dismantling opposing top orders in the first five overs, witnessed an unexpected turn as New Zealand reached 30/0. However, Shami emerged as the savior, showcasing a level of performance akin to Virender Sehwag’s impactful first-ball fours in 2011. Shami’s ability to strike in his first over, especially against New Zealand, played a crucial role in derailing their chase.
In a nerve-wracking period between 8:20 PM and 9 PM, India faced numerous challenges, including inside edges racing to the boundary, overthrows, misfields, and missed opportunities. The sense of panic intensified as Mitchell and Williamson built a formidable partnership. Shami, however, turned the tide with two crucial wickets in an over, bringing India back into contention. His resilience and ability to dismiss left-handers, demonstrated by eight out of his 23 tournament wickets, showcased his exceptional skill.
Facing Shami in this World Cup has been likened to navigating a legendary difficulty level in a video game. His current form surpasses expectations, with notable achievements such as being the first Indian to claim seven wickets in an innings, the only Indian bowler to reach 50 World Cup wickets, and the first overall to secure four five-fors in World Cups. Shami’s legendary status continues to grow, leaving an indelible mark on the cricketing landscape. After the match, a visibly emotional Shami expressed the team’s determination not to let go of their chance after the disappointments of the last two World Cups.