IPL 2019 - Exclusive: I like to live in the present, says Kings XI Punjab fast bowler Mohammed Shami

It has been a tumultuous year and a half for Shami, a period that saw his wife Hasin Jahan file a police case against him for domestic violence—the BCCI briefly withheld his contract following the allegation.

Updated: Mar 26, 2019 11:44:01

By Abhishek Paul

Kings XI Punjab's Mohammed Shami stumps Rajasthan Royals' Jofra Archer (unseen). (AFP)

Gaming is what the Indian cricket team likes to do most in their down time; they play at airports, in hotels, en route to tours. Virtual reality seems a respite from the constant scrutiny they face in the real world. Mohammed Shami is different.

“Everybody seems to be fan of PubG (an online multiplayer war game). I prefer the company of people. Talking and listening to them,” Shami said over the phone from Jaipur, where he is preparing for Kings XI Punjab’s opening IPL 2019 game against Rajasthan Royals.

It has been a tumultuous year and a half for Shami, a period that saw his wife Hasin Jahan file a police case against him for domestic violence—the BCCI briefly withheld his contract following the allegation.

In March last year, he suffered a head injury after a road accident and was declared unfit for the one-off Test against Afghanistan in June.

Successful return

The fast bowler lost weight and made a successful return to Test cricket in England less than a couple of months later, and proved just why he is one of the country’s top bowlers with a 16-wicket haul in four Tests in India’s triumphant series win Australia in December. He followed it up with a Man of The Series performance in the ODI series against New Zealand.

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Though he is a very strong contender for a World Cup berth, Shami has learnt to be cautious.

Life’s uncertain

“Anything can happen in a person’s life at any time,” he said, when asked about his Cup expectations. “So, there is no point in thinking what will happen in the future. I like to live in the present and make the most out of it.

“Whatever happens I focus 100 per cent on the game. That is the only thing that is on my hand. Injuries can happen to anybody. I pray to God that nobody gets injured before the World Cup but you never know. I can only concentrate on the bowling process and on my fitness. Now I am in the IPL and then the World Cup. Obviously the World Cup is such a big event that it’s always at the back of my mind. Fitness will be primary for me in the IPL.”

It’s something he had to really work on after a much publicised failed ‘Yo-Yo test’ last year.

“I am a lot lighter now,” Shami says. “The weight loss did wonders for me. I worked on my bowling too during the time I was recovering. I am improving each day.”

With talk of work load management in the IPL ahead of the World Cup, Shami, who has had a history with knee injuries in the past, says he is in touch with the Indian team’s management. “I am in touch with them regarding when to play and when to take rest. In a long tournament like IPL it’s important to work on fitness on a day-to-day basis and not look too far ahead,” he said.

Yorkers, slower ones

Despite making his ODI debut in 2013, Shami has played just 63 matches. There was a long stretch, from April 2015 to September 2018, when he was deemed a Test specialist, and kept out of the ODI set up, featuring in just three matches in three years.

A strong showing in both ODIs and Tests in the past couple of months has ensured that his chances of spearheading the Indian pace attack at the World Cup is very bright.

Shami says he has worked on slower balls and yorkers to suit the limited overs game, something he will be keen to test out in IPL matches. “As a senior player one always has to take extra responsibility. I am still in the process in perfecting my ability to bowl yorker and slower ones. Especially in T20 cricket those are effective tools,” he said.

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The bowler’s job, especially in ODIs, involves constantly evolving tactics, sometimes on a ball-to-ball basis, and this has been a focus too for Shami.

“A bowler has always got to stay calm. It’s something to work upon, a long process basically to be smart and work around things. Like there is hardly any reverse swing in T20 cricket. It’s a potent weapon for me. When it doesn’t reverse, I have to look for other ways. Try swinging ball in the latter overs, improve the variations.”

Mission IPL

Shami’s team, Kings XI Punjab, are yet to win an IPL title. Shami, like his teammates, was disappointed by their drop in form last season.

“Last year KXIP started brilliantly and were leading the points table at the halfway stage,” he said. “They should have at least reached the final.”

This regret, he hopes, will spur them on this season. “We need to start afresh. The players are hungry to achieve what they didn’t so last year,” he said.

First Published: Mar 26, 2019 11:43:41


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