Mohammed Shami, breathing fire in his village

From his ancestral home in Sahaspur village amid the COVID-19 crisis, India pacer Mohammed Shami talks fitness, the saliva ban and the rise of Jasprit Bumrah.

“Playing three formats itself is not easy. But when you know you are playing for your country, you can manage it,” says Mohammed Shami.

The coronavirus-induced lockdown has pushed many cricketers back to a time when summer meant vacations and not overseas cricket tours. Mohammed Shami is making optimum use of the recess. Besides distributing food to migrant workers near his home in Sahaspur village in Uttar Pradesh, he is also training at the spacious farm.

The village has barely 5,000 people, which makes social distancing easier. The practice sessions involve Shami, his younger brother Kaif — a Bengal under-23 player and also a fast bowler — and at times Badruddin Siddique, his first coach, is a visitor.

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In a chat with Sportstar, the India pacer highlighted the importance of fitness, and spoke about the saliva ban and Jasprit Bumrah’s rise as a bowler.

How have you been since the lockdown started?

For the past two months, I have been training in the village. I have my own space here and there is no issue at all. I am continuing. I already have a plan from the Indian team support staff. I keep that in mind while training. The body feels good. I have been running, so there is momentum. If I continue doing this, it will be even better.

When do you train?

I prefer training in the late afternoon, 4-6pm. I am doing it with my younger brother Kaif. I feel two hours is more than enough to run and do some bowling.

How essential is gym work for a fast bowler?

Gym work is necessary. The body reacts differently to the various exercises. You have to maintain a balance to get that momentum. You can feel the difference once you are bowling. It helps.

READ| Navdeep Saini takes up tennis ball training at home

What are your thoughts on the saliva ban? How much of a challenge will it be?

That I can only tell you when we are on the ground. It depends. We can understand that once we start the daily grind, keeping the rules in mind. The saliva ban will definitely be a factor, but it will not stop our skills. But yes, there will be a difference definitely.

You’ve played two World Cups already, and last year you made a comeback in the Twenty20 format. How does an all-format player train?

It is not easy at all; playing three formats itself is not easy. But when you know you are playing for your country, you can manage it. You know your workload, so you need to act accordingly. I have one simple funda — if I am handed a responsibility, I will try and do it to the best of my abilities. I believe in it.

“When we bowl in a group, when we plan to set up the batsmen, he (Jasprit Bumrah) really enjoys that and that’s why he fits into the combination so well. He never felt that he was a newcomer and all that. His transition was very smooth,” Shami says about his teammate.

 

Your first coach, Badruddin, is seeing you after a long time...

He comes whenever he is free. He tries his best to give me inputs and ensures that I do it right. I keep talking to all my coaches actually.

Recently, Navdeep Saini told us that you helped him a great deal by teaching him the nuances of seam positions. How do you feel about the young fast bowlers in India?

When you have senior players around and if they share their experience, it really helps. But you need to have the hunger for knowledge and the focus to do well or else it won’t be easy. These days, youngsters are very particular about fitness. The junior players talk a lot about what they can do and what they can’t.

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The England-West Indies series has started, but there is no clarity on cricket in India or the Indian Premier League (IPL). How are you keeping yourself motivated amid the uncertainty?

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but the idea now is to make the body athletic and flexible and remain fit to bowl. I am trying to be match-fit and that’s what I can do now.

Jasprit Bumrah’s rise has been phenomenal. As a senior bowler, how do you assess him?

Jasprit is a very good bowler, but I feel ek bowler kabhi akela nahi ladhta hai. Koi bhi player ho, koi akela bada nahi banta hai (bowlers don’t fight alone. Whoever the player be, nobody can fight alone). Your skill gets you success, but it is teamwork. We work as a unit. Bumrah has more fun when we work as a group.

When we bowl in a group, when we plan to set up the batsmen, he really enjoys that and that’s why he fits into the combination so well. He never felt that he was a newcomer and all that. His transition was very smooth.

Badruddin Siddique.

 

He doesn’t get to spend time here. The junior kids got a lot of support from him. His brother, Kaif, and Mohsin Khan (of Uttar Pradesh and Mumbai Indians) received a lot of help. I have been to his farmhouse. It feels good that he is continuing with the values that I taught him. He is an international bowler, but he is training with youngsters, which is heartening to see. Shami looks the fittest now. It seems he is ageing backwards.

— Badruddin Siddique, Mohammed Shami’s first coach