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Mohammed Shami

'There have been outstanding changes in my life' – Shami eyes World Cup success after second wind

Mohammed Shami, the India fast bowler, credited management and the coaches, both at the Indian team and the ones at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru, for helping him rediscover his confidence.

Shami was India's second-highest wicket-taker at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2015, where his 17 scalps helped India bowl out the opposition seven successive times leading up to the semi-final.

Injury subsequently cast him on the sidelines, even as new, young fast bowlers emerged in the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar. After the World Cup semi-final loss to Australia, Shami did not play one-day cricket for two years. It was a period marked by weight gain and a struggle for rhythm.

Shami is the only member of India's pace trio from the 2015 World Cup to have retained his place
Shami is the only member of India's pace trio from the 2015 World Cup to have retained his place

Shami has since put those issues behind. He is now back in top shape, is once again a regular in India's ODI squad, and is primed to go at the 2019 World Cup, having been named in the 15-man squad that was announced on Monday, 15 April. "In the last 18 months, I have continuously worked on my fitness and have been constantly trying to improve my game, [and] on what will be better for my team," he said on the sidelines of the IPL in Mohali.

"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. 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.

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.

Mohammed Shami

"There's a lot of difference [with my bowling] when compared to, 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 me 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."

Apart from issues with fitness, Shami has also had to deal with personal problems. He even had to take a break from the 2018 Indian Premier League after suffering a head injury in a road accident. But after spending another year out of the ODI team, Shami has gone back to his wicket-taking ways since returning to the side in October last year. He is Kings XI Punjab's highest wicket-taker in the IPL this season, with 10 wickets in eight matches.

Mohammed Shami has been Kings XI Punjab's highest wicket-taker so far this IPL season (AFP)
Mohammed Shami has been Kings XI Punjab's highest wicket-taker so far this IPL season (AFP)

"I'm very happy that I have got a second chance in a World Cup," he said. "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 India's players up for a full grind, with the IPL season followed immediately by the World Cup, workload management has been a frequently broached subject. But Shami felt the IPL offered ideal simulation to be mentally prepared to deal with pressure at the marquee event.

"Playing these matches [in the IPL] help in terms of fitness and mental preparation," he said. "It's a challenging tournament before the World Cup and it is very helpful in the preparation, mentally and physically."

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Afghanistan fans celebrate a boundary during the 2019 Cricket World Cup warm up match between England and Afghanistan at The Oval in London on May 27, 2019.

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