Who would have thought that after the 2015 World Cup when Virat Kohli and boys fly down to England to compete in the 2019 Cup, it would be the Indian bowlers and not the batters who would be the talking point. But the change in perception did not happen overnight. It has taken a couple of years for the Indian team management to create a pool of fast bowlers who have the perfect mix of skills and pace to push opposition batsmen on the backfoot. If Kohli has a champion death bowler in Jasprit Bumrah, the captain has a genuine fast bowler who can swing the ball at top speed in Mohammed Shami. Not to forget the swing maestro in Bhuvneshwar Kumar. As a captain, Kohli could not have asked for a better pace battery as India look to stay true to the favourites tag and win their third 50-over title.
Not just the team, but even cricket fanatics in the country cannot wait for the trio to unleash themselves on opposition batsmen and senior-most pacer Mohammed Shami sums it up best. Speaking to IANS, Shami said that it was a matter of pride for the whole bowling unit to be considered a strength of this World Cup squad. Having seen batsmen dominate the scenes in Indian cricket over the years, Shami said it was like a dream come true that this team boasts of one of the best pace-bowling attacks that India has ever produced.
“In the last 20 or 30 years, if you look back at the history of Indian cricket, it has always been dominated by the batsmen. You cannot really blame the bowlers because the wickets that were prepared in India were also not helpful towards the bowlers. Things have started improving in the last five to seven years and to be honest, it has been a process and not something that has happened overnight. We have been bowling as a unit and that helps.
“The best part is that along with variety, we have an attack that can bowl fast. Having skills and pace together is the USP of this side as that somewhere increases the confidence of the attack. To be honest, it is like a dream that has come true and I feel very proud that today people talk about our bowling unit as one of the best — a thing that wasn’t heard much but is now called our strength,” he explained.
But fast bowling is not an art that comes naturally to a human body and the chances of injuries are high. That is where the physio and medical team comes in and ensures that a fast bowler is not overworked as that increases chances of an injury. In fact, going into the just-concluded Indian Premier League, skipper Virat Kohli had time and again warned the Indian players not to overwork themselves and be smart and manage their workload. Shami said that he kept in constant touch with the Indian team physio Patrick Farhart and discussed how his body was responding to the rigours of playing in the T20 league. More than the games, it is the scheduling that takes a toll on the body.
“I don’t believe in making too many changes and neither do I underwork or overwork my body. Had been constantly in touch with the physio and whatever I feel, I always tell the physio honestly so that the team doesn’t suffer. No team should suffer due to an individual. So, I believe it is important that you keep a transparent relation with the doctor and physio in the team so that they know how exactly the body is working. This understanding in the Indian team is really good and that helps,” he said.
While Shami will be the guiding light for the Indian attack in the upcoming World Cup, there was a phase in the last two years when it was felt that the pacer from Bengal had become a red-ball specialist. But Shami says that he was waiting for his opportunity and knew that when given the chance, he would have to grab it with both hands. He says that it was all about reminding people that his white-ball record is just as enviable as his red-ball performances.
“I hadn’t been playing white-ball cricket for a while but in the series against Australia, I gained in confidence and just looked to keep that going even in the IPL. Also, playing consistently for KXIP helped me. Getting to play day-in day-out helps you perform and get the right momentum.
“I was just waiting for an opportunity as I had a good record in white-ball cricket. Waited for almost two years and I had it in mind that when I did get the chance, I will show what I could do. Always knew that I can adapt to the shorter format and bowl the line and length required to succeed,” he revealed.