Mohammed Shami: Lean, mean and raring to go

Playing for Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing Indian Premier League season, Mohammed Shami has been consistent and hopes to keep the momentum going in the World Cup as well.

A school of sorts: The IPL is a platform where you can see all the cards on the table. It is up to you as to how much you can learn from it.   -  AKHILESH KUMAR

Mohammed Shami scalped 17 batsmen to become India’s second-highest wicket-taker in World Cup 2015. Now, four years later, as another World Cup nears, the Indian paceman is gearing up to make the most of it in English conditions.

Playing for Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing Indian Premier League season, Shami has been consistent and has picked up 16 wickets at the time of going to the press. The 28-year-old hopes to keep the momentum going in the World Cup as well.

He spoke to Sportstar on his personal form, India’s bowling attack in the World Cup and more…

READ| IPL 2019: What keeps Shami lean and injury-free

The last few months have been very successful for you. How do you see this?

It has been quite good. In the last 18 months, we have performed as a unit. We have worked hard and the results have showed that. So, it is a great feeling. I hope this (good streak) continues.

Over the last one year, you have lost weight. How did you manage that? Was it difficult?

It takes a lot of hard work to reach here. The thing is, it is very easy to gain weight but it is challenging when you need to reduce it. But luckily for me, it was not that difficult because the Test series (against England last year) was on and I had to focus on that. I reduced nine kilos (of weight) during the Australia and New Zealand series. And you can see the difference.

Has losing weight helped improve your game?

When the weight is reduced, you become more flexible and it actually becomes easier for a fast bowler (to get the line and length better). You don’t feel exhausted or tired and you slowly tend to feel the difference. So, everything put together, it certainly has a positive impact on the bowling.

READ| Dhawan optimistic about India’s chances in World Cup 2019

Kings XI Punjab has some international players in its ranks with whom you have played in the past. Does that help the overall team performance?

It is a good thing. Our team combination is good, fast bowlers are more in number, so the training and matches go off well. It helps you fine tune things and better your fitness and skills.

The World Cup starts right after the IPL. So, for a fast bowler, how much of a mental shift does it require to go to a 50-over format from Twenty20s?

It is difficult. When you are changing format, it does get a bit challenging but then, for me or Jasprit (Bumrah), it is not that much of a problem because ultimately it’s about making an impact, either in the power play or at the death. The only difference is that in ODIs, the number of overs increase and you need to focus on your fitness level.

Keeping the English conditions in mind, what are the areas you are working on?

We have more than a month left for the World Cup, so there is time. Now the IPL is on, so there’s no point thinking too much about what would happen next. It is better to focus on the immediate job in hand. After reaching England, you will play practice matches, then you can get a better idea and plan accordingly. But then, you should focus on your skills and fitness levels.

With the World Cup approaching, how challenging is it for the players to maintain their workload?

It is not challenging but it’s just that you need to keep a tab on each and every aspect of your game. Another thing is, you have to be a bit careful during the practice sessions and the matches.

Look, there is no point thinking too much. One can pick up an injury anytime and that’s quite normal in cricket. But you need to keep yourself safe and improve your training schedule. Ultimately, that’s the most important thing for a cricketer.

READ| Sourav Ganguly: India a strong team for the World Cup

In the IPL, you get to face a lot of international players and can gauge their preparation levels ahead of the World Cup. Does it help?

The IPL is a platform where you can see all the cards on the table. Saare patte dikh jate hai. That helps you understand how the other players are preparing, how much they are training. But it depends on each individual as to how he reads the situation and understands the mindset of the other players. It is about absorbing those moments. It doesn’t matter if he is an Indian player or an overseas player, it is about how much you can learn from it.

Plus point: Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar (right to left) form India’s World Cup pace attack. They have played together and know one another’s strengths inside out.   -  V. GANESAN

 

The Indian pace attack looks quite formidable with you, Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. Since all of you have been in the set-up for long, does it help?

That helps in a way. If you have played alongside someone, it’s a plus point. But if a new person comes in, you have to get to know him, understand how to handle him. But when you are part of the same unit (for long), you know which person can work where. So that’s a benefit. You know their strengths. You know the skill set and can also back them. Playing together for long definitely has benefits.

In this edition of the IPL, Kings XI Punjab has had quite a few close encounters. What have those taught you?

Be it the IPL or international cricket or domestic cricket, close games teach you a lot. Those close finishes — be it winning or losing — show what went wrong for you and what are the areas you need to work on. They help you identify the mistakes. It depends on how you take it in your stride and better your performance in the next fixture. After all, you know better what your mistakes were in the previous outing.