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The last six months have seen some outstanding changes in my life: Shami © BCCI
The 2014-15 season was a happy time for Mohammed Shami – he was a key member of the Indian pace department, having bagged in excess of 50 wickets in 27 ODIs between January 2014 to March 2015, including 17 wickets in the 2015 World Cup where he finished as the second highest wicket-taker for his team. But following the semifinal loss to Australia, it took Shami more than two years (July 2017) before he made it back to the Indian ODI eleven. However, those were only sporadic appearances, with injuries, fitness issues and the emergence of other bowlers like Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar reducing Shami to the sidelines.
But things have changed in recent months with the 28-year-old forcing his way back into the reckoning through consistent performances. Since October 2018, Shami has picked up 22 wickets in 13 ODIs, the joint-most for an Indian fast bowler along with Bhuvneshwar.
Shami’s knee could only take so many pain-killer injections during the World Cup. He admitted that he was slightly on the heavier side after his injury and needed to worked hard on his fitness to battle competition, an effort that has now resulted in him being picked for the 2019 World Cup.
“If you have seen in the last 18 months, I have continuously worked on my fitness and have been constantly trying to improve my game, on what will be better for my team. Yes, I was a bit heavy after my injury and didn’t play ODIs for an extended time. But I have played ODIs recently, especially in the last six months there have been some outstanding changes in my life,” said Shami on Monday (April 15) during a press conference ahead of Kings XI Punjab’s match against Rajasthan Royals.
“I am happy with whatever I have achieved. I lost so much of weight, my body has that flow now and the rhythm, I feel, is similar to when I started (my career). I will try to maintain the same rhythm in the future for the World Cup. Like you’ve seen, there’s a lot of difference (with my bowling) when compared to before, say three years back. I have done a lot of hard work, I’ve worked with the coaches and the confidence that I got with the Indian team, backing me when I was trying to improve my fitness levels, the management, the NCA, they all backed my with all their heart. I was also dedicated to take on the fitness challenge in front of me, I accepted that and the result is now in front of you,” he added.
Geared up to play his second World Cup, Shami believes his confidence levels have only increased when compared to the previous World event and he’s eager to put that to good use. “I’m very happy that I have got a second chance in a World Cup. As far as performance is concerned, they way I had performed in 2015, how I approached it with confidence, I am hoping that there’s an increased confidence in me. And whatever confidence that I have, in terms of my performance in the last seven-eight months, I want to carry that confidence and put my best foot forward for my team.”
With the IPL preceding the World Cup, there has been a lot of emphasis on workload management. Shami is among four bowlers who has bowled more than 500 overs in international cricket since January 2018. But that hasn’t come in the way of his performance in the IPL, as he continues to steam in each match and is currently the leading wicket-taker for Kings XI.
Shami has also been running in hard even during the net sessions. While there is the danger of weariness creeping in, Shami insists that playing in the IPL helps in being mentally and physically ready for a big tournament such as the World Cup. “Playing these matches (in the IPL) help in terms of fitness and mental preparation. It’s a challenging tournament before the World Cup and the IPL is very helpful in the preparation, mentally and physically.”