Indian pacer Mohammed Shami says his love for cricket helped him battle the off-field problems that pegged him back a few months ago as he made an impressive comeback in the ongoing first Test against England here.
On the opening day of the first Test here, Shami took 2-64 while R Ashwin returned with figures of 4 for 60 to help India restrict England to 285-9.
It was a fine return for the 28-year-old Shami, who was accused of domestic violence and extra-marital affair by his wife some months back. He also sustained injuries after being involved in an accident and later missed the one-off Afghanistan Test for failing the yo-yo fitness test.
“(The tour of) South Africa was a long time ago and there have been some off-field issues after that. I had to fight a lot in between but my effort was that I have to keep doing what I love most and what is most important to me (cricket),” Shami said.
“I wanted to just keep doing my job and then see what happens to the rest of the stuff in my life. Whatever difficulties I face, first I wanted to play cricket and keep doing it. The result is in front of us.”
Shami, who was India’s highest wicket-taker with 15 scalps in the 2-1 loss to South Africa, said he was satisfied with his and team’s efforts on the field on opening day.
“As a bowling unit and as an individual, I am very happy today. This is the thing I have worked hard for and we have been able to bring it forward successfully,” he said.
“There are ups and downs in life and in your family. But when playing for your country there is a responsibility and when you do that job properly, I think that’s the best thing. So I am very happy with today.”
Joe Root struck his 41st Test half-century and put on 105 runs with Jonny Bairstow. Things were going fine until the third session when England collapsed from 216/3 to 285-9, losing six wickets for 69 runs.
It was the 63rd over of the innings when Virat Kohli’s direct throw ran out Root and that changed the momentum as England lost three wickets for eight runs in the next 25 balls.
“In the morning the wicket was a little slower and there was hard work for sure. On such wickets, we have to maintain good line and length all day. It was a little tough initially because it was slow and a little damp. We didn’t do anything extra during those overs,” Shami said.
“Initially when you bowl on such wickets here you get an idea how it will behave and what you need to keep doing. So there weren’t many changes in our approach during the day but we tried to control line and length through the day and tried not to give any width,” he added.
Shami said the pacers gelled well with the lone spinner and they did not feel the need for a second spinner.
“If you see in a Test match, there is a lot of time and you can come back if there is a good partnership. You bowl according to the wicket and batsmen, so as a captain or as a bowler, you get to think,” he said.
“You can assess the situation as per the wicket, and that’s how you choose your bowling unit and then work on the basis of that. So you cannot say that we missed or will miss an extra spinner.
“We have to believe in the team selection and fight with the same group of bowlers, instead of thinking what you don’t have,” said Shami.
Shami also heaped praise on Ashwin (4/60) for registering his best figures in Test cricket across South Africa, England and Australia.
“He bowled very well today. Usually, in English conditions, you see fast bowlers doing well. For a spinner to come early in the spell and do so well, it gave us confidence too,” Shami said.
“Overall the fast bowlers did well and he combined well with us. So we didn’t miss the second spinner as we had experience on our side and it can be seen in the results.”
Shami said playing together in the last few overseas tours has helped the team to produce a quality bowling unit.
“Even when you are not able to take wickets, you dry up the runs. Ashwin bowled well from one end while the runs stopped from the other end to create pressure and the wickets came in the end,” he said.
“This is the quality of our bowling unit which we have gained after playing two or three successive tours together. We are very happy as a bowling unit.