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Virat backs us to the core: Mohammed Shami

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Indian speedster Mohammed Shami spoke in an interview to IANS about his transformation from the time he made his debut under MS Dhoni to becoming one of the major exponents of the fast bowling artillery in the recent times, aided by the leadership of Virat Kohli.

Shami is the type of fast bowler who tends to get better and better as the game progresses, meaning that his best performances are often exhibited during the 2nd innings of a Test Match, thereby earning him the nickname ‘Second Innings Shami’. On being asked upon his secret to success, Shami said, “I try to ensure that my pace doesn’t fall below the 140kph mark. But my focus is on the seam and swing. I have always tried to make sure that these two things remain perfect.”

Shami said that he emphasizes more on his accuracy and control over his movement with the ball off the air or off the pitch.
“I can bring pace with my physical strength and you can always work on it by doing strength training. But I have always given priority to swing and seam and never for a minute let them take a backseat,” he said.

On being asked about his ability to extract reverse swing with the old ball, he said, “As you keep playing, you learn a lot of things. It is all about following one process after the other. So, when you have learnt one trick and mastered it, you then move to the next one and work on that. In the beginning, I didn’t have much idea about reverse swing, but slowly I came to understand what the process of reverse swing is all about and how it can be an integral part of a pace bowler’s armoury. Then I started working on it because you are not born with it. It wasn’t like God sent me with the art. I had to work hard and to be honest, you have to work hard for everything that you wish to achieve in life.”
Shami has been a part of the Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL at the beginning of the previous decade, a time when Wasim Akram used to be the bowling coach. Shami has often said that talking to the ‘Sultan of Swing’ often gaining useful insights from him has benefitted him immensely. That could also be attributed to Shami’s rise in Test Cricket.

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Indian skipper Virat Kohli is really fond of his fast bowling trio and often goes to extreme measures to ensure that they stay fit and fine for every game. He has mentioned in previous interviews that he feels pride in leading such a talented pace attack.

On being asked about the backing he has received from the Indian skipper, Shami said, “Do I need to say this? I think the results bear testimony to the fact that Virat backs us to the core. He has always given us that freedom to do what we feel confident about. Also, it is very important at the international level to have a captain who knows your strengths and weaknesses and also backs you. This in turn helps you raise your game.”

He continued, “Also, Virat has a lot of trust in our abilities and he gets the result because as a bowler, all you need is for the captain to back you and believe in you and your vision.”

Upon being asked about the planning that goes through in plotting to dismiss a particular batsman, especially batsmen of the calibre of Virat Kohli, Shami said, “There are a lot of things that come with playing and spending quality time with another player. You not only come to know of his strengths, but also of his weaknesses.”

“As a bowler, you need to keep working on the weak zones. There is no denying the fact that he is the best in the business, but even the best has those little flaws which you can work on. You just need to pick on one factor and focus on that. Say for example, which has been the area that has troubled a batsman in recent times? You then work on that. I have dismissed him quite a few times (in the IPL) and without getting into much details, I will say you have to just work on the weak zone,” the pacer from Bengal said.

There are only a handful number of players who can excel in all three formats of the game. With his rise in Test match Cricket, Shami invited a lot of critics terming him as a red ball specialist, until he started to prove them wrong in the IPL. When asked about the preparation that he undergoes in order to play all three formats, Shami said, “Mindset obviously does change as per the format. In terms of skills also you do need to change and adapt as per the format because what will work for you in Tests might not work for you in the shorter formats of the game. It is all about the mindset and how you adapt to the situation.”