IPL 2020 is turning out to be an interesting affair so far with the highest-ever run chase, two super over finishes and some stellar performances all around. One of them who has been grabbing the spotlight with some fiery bowling display is the Indian fast bowling spearhead Mohammad Shami who has been the stand out performer for the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) as far as bowling is concerned. He is also the purple cap holder after four matches for the team with eight wickets and the best bowling figure of 3 for 15 with an impressive economy rate of 7.86 runs per over.
In a conversation on “Amstrad InsideSport Face 2 Face Cricket Series”, Shami opened up about his time in quarantine, his change in bowling action, time with KXIP, the revival of his career since the knee injury and much more.
Shami also spoke about his relationship with the Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli and how he helped them to become a great fast bowling unit.
Shami began the conversation talking about his time away from cricket due to COVID-19. He said, “For any athlete this situation wasn’t in our schedule and it wasn’t even in our hand. As far as the Indian team goes our schedule is pretty hectic throughout the year. We have back to back tours and we hardly get 10 days in between two tournaments. It gets a bit difficult to manage our workload especially when you are playing all three formats as a fast bowler. I always try to manage my workload and look after my recovery as much as I can because you need to have that level of energy and be a complete package in order to play three formats back to back.”
He further spoke about his time practising alone and now for a month in UAE and said, “When the lockdown started I took 20-25 days off, but I pushed myself to utilize all the things I had which were needed for practice. Even though it gets a bit boring to practice alone but luckily I had my friend and my brother for the practice. The practice during the lockdown and a month of practice in UAE helped me keep the momentum.”
Commenting on the factor of getting back in the rhythm Shami said, “Our body is not like a car that you fill in the tank with petrol and it’ll run smoothly. Obviously, it takes time for any person to get back on the routine. It gets difficult for office workers itself so imagine how difficult it must be for a sportsperson to step out from the leisure of their home. The most difficult thing for a sportsperson it to maintain their weight and fitness levels which becomes very crucial to handle. I am very happy that I have been able to utilize what I got from cricket to keep myself in good shape.”
IPL 2020 : Mohd Shami on how he recovered from injuries and bad times ?
He was then asked about the speculations around his career coming to an end after a major knee injury; Shami was prompt enough to say, “In 2015 and even back in 2018 when I faced an injury, the media said that my career would be over. The media reported that even if I come back that I won’t be the same Shami, and I agree that I am not the same that I was a few years back. And that’s the only correct thing that they have said irrespective of all the other things they have said. This comment motivated me a lot to do better in the game for which I am known.”
He also added, “One needs to be mentally strong at any cost. Everyone faces some or the other problem in their lives. To set the platform and to achieve it you need to plan a chart and work accordingly to achieve the goal. I believe that everyone has to face a difficult phase in life to refocus and work in the right direction. I remember after my injury I weighed almost 95Kgs and I felt that what people are saying is true and I can’t do anything about it. But then I had a ball next to me throughout the 60 days of my bed rest during the injury. You don’t have to forget things in life and you have to learn and adapt to the situation and you can’t lie to yourself especially with regards to your profession.”
IPL 2020 : Mohd Shami on how Virat Kohli has helped him in his career ?
On being asked at the show how much do you think Virat Kohli has a role in promoting India’s current pace attack as a Captain? Shami was all praises and said, “I believe as a unit you need to trust one another. I think in international cricket fast bowlers would definitely perform well when they have the backing from the captain and he is one such personality. Virat loves to take on a challenge. He is clear with what he wants and he gives us the freedom to play to our strength and backs us with our decisions as well which has helped us perform better.”
Shami stated that, “We as a unit have always enjoyed each other’s success and if you look at the record of the past few years I think we have one of the best in the history of Indian cricket. We don’t get upset that he got the wicket and I didn’t or that fast bowler is getting more chances. We have always acted like a one unit and have been like a family. And appreciating each other’s success is and I guess that’s the main strength of the unit.”
IPL 2020 : Mohd Shami explains how he mastered perfect seam
He further went onto speak about the pace attack of India saying, “The biggest factor is the culture of motivation and fitness in the team. We have a unit of six-seven fast bowlers who have been playing since the last 5 years and no matter whom you choose they will give their 100%. If we keep on building this culture it is going to hugely benefit the junior levels. This is the basic reason that the reserve fast bowlers, U-19 ones everyone is showing great quality.”
Shami who has one of the best seam positions in world cricket also gave an insight into how this came through saying, “Everyone has their own style, their own wrist position. While growing up I used to always notice the release point of the fast bowlers and I kept practising and repeating that to get a hang of it. I generally concentrate more on the seam and the wrist position that is why I am able to swing both ways. And to be honest, I don’t feel complete if my all doesn’t seam and I then start questioning myself.”
On being asked about his new renewed rhythm and run-up he said, “If you look back in the years before 2015, my run-up was shorter and my steps were uneven, but after the injury, I had to change my run-up as it needed to be adjusted according to my knee. I know the distance that I had to run. So the longer and shorter steps needed in the run-up got properly set for me after the knee injury as you have to slowly get into the groove of it. Now, I am so comfortable that I don’t have to think twice about it.”
IPL 2020 : Mohd Shami on KL Rahul, Anil Kumble and KXIP
Commenting on his equation with KL Rahul and Anil Kumble in KXIP, Shami gave a very frank answer. “I have played with KL and I have worked with Anil sir for a long time. And I believe that it gets easier for a captain to manage a player if you have that understanding from a long time. And there are many players who have known each other in the squad. You just have to tell them once and they understand what they are trying it. This has helped us perform well as a unit and one person has to come out as a leader and Rahul is the perfect man for it. He is our keeper also which allows him to have a clear view on everyone.”
India and KXIP pace spearhead finally closed the discussion with a tip for the young fast bowlers. He said, “One should figure the kind of bowler you are and then chose your idol. It is important because if you aren’t a very fast bowler and you end up choosing the fastest in the world it is only going to hamper your growth.