WORLD CUP 2019
“My yorkers are still as potent as they used to be and I will be using a lot of them during the World Cup,” Shami said © Getty
Mohammed Shami isn’t comfortable talking about his personal life. But ask him about his professional career – as a key member of India’s troika of pace bowlers – and he sounds gung-ho about his prospects at the upcoming World Cup.
Shami doesn’t want to just make up numbers; he wants to be counted in England and Wales. The flat pitches, where 350-plus totals have become a norm, are not a concern for him. He prefers to look at the brighter side – overcast and windy conditions that will assist his potent fast, swing bowling.
“Flat pitches in England have become a batsman’s paradise in limited-overs cricket. But a bowler has to be smart enough to alter his line and length according to the conditions. I have the pace and swing to outsmart them. I am not overly worried about it. In fact, I believe the conditions are suited for my bowling. The late movement outside the off-stump will definitely come in handy,” Shami told TOI.
Shami, like his pace compatriot Jasprit Bumrah, is banking on his most lethal weapon – yorkers – to rattle the opposition batsmen. Shami’s incoming deliveries were a nightmare for batsmen until a few years ago, but he lost that skill due to multiple factors.
After leading the pace attack at the 2015 edition of the World Cup, Shami suffered a knee injury and soon form deserted him due to lack of fitness. It meant Shami, who was once considered India’s premier fast bowler (now that place has been taken by Bumrah), spent time in oblivion, away from the national colours for almost two years – from April 2015 to June 2017. For the better part of the 2017 and ’18, he featured in just five ODIs.
In between, he was bogged down by family issues, which kept him away from the cricket field for a considerable period. He lost focus and it seemed Shami would crumble under pressure. But the 29-year-old got his composure back – he cut himself off from the outside world, spent several hours at the gym (twice in a day), continued his training regime and maintained his fitness. The India call soon followed for the Australia and New Zealand away series.
Shami justified the faith reposed by the team management in him, picking up 14 wickets on the two tours. Back with the same bite and skill-set, which had made him an indispensable part of India’s limited-overs set-up from his debut days in 2013 to 2015, Shami was immediately rewarded with a World Cup by the selectors. His 2015 World Cup edition’s pace partners, Mohit Sharma and Umesh Yadav, no longer figure in the selectors’ scheme of things, but Shami ensured that he didn’t fall by the wayside.
“I worked on my game during the time I was away from the field and didn’t lose focus of my aim – to get back into the national reckoning. I have returned stronger, faster and fitter.
“My yorkers are still as potent as they used to be and I will be using a lot of them during the World Cup. I back myself to bowl fast, incoming deliveries and it wouldn’t be easy for batsmen out there to hit me,” Shami sounded a warning.
And what about his ability to get reverse swing with the old ball? “That would also come into play. Reverse swing has always been my strength.”
Shami acknowledged that there’s a “healthy competition” within the bowling department, with both Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar being skipper Virat Kohli’s first choice to open the bowling. Shami knows that he will have to perform to stand out from the pack.
“We are a happy bowling bunch. We discuss a lot among ourselves. We are not shy of taking each other’s advice, that’s the kind of freedom we enjoy. I tell Bumrah about a certain bowling aspect and he does the same with me. Our experience makes us a very strong bowling unit. We know our roles going into the World Cup and exploit the conditions accordingly,” he said.