‘I Practice More At Home Than With Indian Team’: Mohammed Shami After Bamboozling Australia With 5/51

Mohammed Shami returned with the Player of the Match award for his 5/51 against Australia in the first ODI in Mohali.

After bowling the last ball in his fourth over in the first ODI against Australia, Mohammed Shami immediately signalled to stand-in captain KL Rahul and waved his hand to the dressing room. He looked completely worn out. The unusual humidity in Mohali had made it almost impossible for the fast bowlers to bowl long spells. Before walking off the field Shami had provided India the early breakthrough. He had dismissed Mitchell Marsh in the first over. Little did Australia know that Shami was just getting started.

Despite the unforgiving conditions, Shami was back after a break and Rahul threw him the ball for his second ball in the 22nd over of Australia’s innings. Just like with the new ball, Shami struck in the first over of his second spell. This time, he knocked the stumps back of a well-settled Steve Smith.

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Shami would go on to pick three more wickets – of Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Short and Sean Abbott – in the death overs to register the second-best bowling figures by an Indian against Australia in ODIs. His 5/51 helped India bowl Australia out for 276 in 48.4 overs.

How did Shami counter the Mohali heat?
Those following international cricket would know that Shami brings out his best in unresponsive conditions. His immaculate wrist position and subtle changes at the release point make him a deadly proposition even on placid batting tracks. But how did he manage to bowl two more spells with the same intensity after nearly looking exhausted after the spell with the new ball? Shami says it comes with experience.

“The heat does play a factor. We are human beings after all. It can take a toll on your body but after playing international cricket for such a long, I am habituated to handling such conditions. When the wickets are unresponsive, you have to put in that extra effort with the ball so you will naturally see fast bowlers bowling shorter spells because of that,” he said in the post-match press conference.

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Shami practices harder at home
As astonishing as it may sound, Shami is not a guaranteed starter in India’s ODI XI as things stand now. He only featured in the series opener as Mohammed Siraj, the No.1-ranked ODI bowler, was under the weather. This has been the case with the Indian players for quite some time now. Due to the demands of playing all three formats and the IPL, workload management has become necessary. Shami too was rested for the entire West Indies tour after playing non-stop cricket for close to eight months.

But the veteran right-arm seamer said the word rest has a different meaning in his dictionary as he ends up practising more at his home in Uttar Pradesh’s Amroha than with the Indian team.

“That break after the WTC final was necessary as I had been playing non-stop cricket for 6-7 months. I felt that my body needed some rest. I had a discussion with the coach and captain and then we decided that I should take a break. But my rest doesn’t feel like rest because I end up practising more at home. The kind of set-up I have at my home, I practice more compared to when I am with the Indian team,” he said.

But isn’t he bothered about the rotation policy? He could well end up on the bench in the third ODI when India decide to play their World Cup-preferred new-ball attack.

“The coach plays a crucial role in rotating the players according to the conditions. It also depends on the opposition. I don’t think we need to play back-to-back matches before the World Cup and as you can see we are also getting the results, so there is no need to change the plans,” he said.

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