Pakistan's tour of India at the backend of 2012 was a monumental event for the populace of both nations, as it marked the first bilateral series between the two cricket-crazy nations after a span of half a decade. After splitting the T20 series evenly, the two teams moved on to the ODI series where the visitors produced a display of pace bowling that was reminiscent of their glorious yesteryears.
The fiery Junaid Khan and the mammoth Mohammed Irfan ran through the Indian batting lineup as Pakistan emerged victors in the first two ODIs, reducing the third game down to a mere dead rubber. India's batting failed for the third game running, bundling out for a modest 167, but with pride at stake the Indian pacers rolled their sleeves to take on the challenge.
Determined to weather the storm, debutant Mohammed Shami, opened the bowling and cramped the Pakistani batting order for room, maintaining a tight line and bowling a magnificent spell that had the batsmen gasping for answers. Shami leaked only 23 runs in his nine overs that featured four maidens and a crucial wicket as India came out victors by 10 runs in stunning fashion. Shami received plaudits for his incredible performance on debut, helping India finishing the series on a high.
Watching at home was a proud father, Taufeeq Ahmed, who couldn't help his tears, as he lived his lifelong dream of watching his son make his international debut against Pakistan. Following that match, his father decided to host a small gathering for a few family friends in the Amroha district, where Shami spent a bulk of his childhood and began his cricketing journey.
"It was supposed to be a small gathering," Shami recalls. "A 'thank you' of sorts to the people who were present at the beginning of my cricketing journey.
"Amroha is a three-hour journey from Delhi. The roads leading there aren't in the greatest conditions, so it takes a while. I told my father I'd take the road journey and meet up with the rest of the cavalry," he added.
But things were about to get crazy. "As I was travelling, my father called me and asked me to meet him at a toll booth that is at a distance from where we were supposed to meet. That confused me bit," Shami says. "I asked him 'why we can't meet where we had decided to?'"
Soon after, he saw why.
"My father had invited about 60 people, but 60,000 flocked to the area. The roads were blocked, there was chaos. All you could see were heads, it was surreal," explains the pacer. Shami, humbled by the love and adulation, couldn't hide his emotions. "I got a bit teary. I had never seen a welcome quite like this. I didn't even know there were these many people living there either!" he exclaims.
Since his debut, Shami has been one of India's most consistent performers and finished his maiden World Cup as India's second highest wicket-taker and the second-most economical bowler and is also the fastest Indian to a hundred ODI scalps. Shami's career has gone from strength-to-strength and his performances have received rave reviews for over half a decade, but the bedlam on his return to Amroha following his debut remains the telling memory of his cricketing journey.