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Exclusive Interview With Mohammad Shami: The Current Pace Attack Is The Best India Has Ever Had

How did cricket happen for Mohammad Shami?

Shami: When I was small my dad and chacha used to play cricket. I used to watch them play on Saturdays and Sundays. My brother was a good cricketer but couldn’t make it big, but he was a fine all-rounder. I was not that inclined initially. When I began playing cricket, I was unaware of almost everything. When I went with my dad to the stadium, I had nothing; all I knew was that I was a bowler and this meant I did not even need a kit bag, I had to bowl. I was scared of batting. I had spikes and 2 dresses. Then dad bought a bat. My elder bro told me to play. I was very scared of batting. I would tell him, ‘Don’t ask me to bat, I will throw the ball fast I will bowl fast.’ I did just that in the beginning and I started liking it. I enjoyed playing the sport. My speed was good and enjoyed running in hard and bowling fast.

So how did it all start?

Shami: From where I come, there was not much cricket there. There was no stadium as well. I come from Sahaspur in Amroha district. I had to travel a lot to play cricket. So when my father took me to a coach, he asked me, if I could manage the entire process of traveling for 2-3 hours and then practise for a few hours again. He told me it is going to be tough. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘Life Mein sab kuchbhi easy nahimiltahein” (Nothing comes easy in life). I was ready for it. I was ready to practice and put in the hours and effort. I told myself, let’s see how far I can go but I have to give it a sincere shot at this

How was the early part of your cricket life?

Shami: Like any other cricketer who has played for India, I have also had to work very very hard to get this far. I still remember, every day I would go in the morning and come back at night. We used to have selection trials only once a year and I remember taking part in the trials as well. It was the under 19 selections. It was a 3 day trial with over 1600 boys. I told my elder brother, how will I get selected, there are so many here. But he told me just go and do your job. He is my biggest fan. I bowled fast in those trials but I did not get selected. Despite bowling fast, I used to still get ignored. This happened every time and I would feel dejected and disappointed. That’s when I realized I was going nowhere. But I wanted to excel and I wanted to make it. That’s when my coach Badruddin Siddiqui told me to shift to Kolkata. I began playing league cricket there and things started falling into place.

So what was your turning point?

Shami: I remember Bengal Ranji Captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla called me to the nets to bowl. That’s when the senior players made note of my pace and talent. I bowled to Ganguly and other batsmen as well. Till then I was only playing league matches. Shukla and other senior players would enquire, who this bowler is, he is bowling well. Why isn’t he in the under 22 squad. When officials would say I was is a new player, the senior players would say, so what if he is new? He is bowling well and he should be there in the team. I guess this moment at the nets was a defining moment in my career.

(Pic Source: BCCI)

So did fast bowling come naturally to you? Or you were asked to become a fast bowler by your coach?

Shami: I did not know anything about cricket but the cricket ball and the seam. I only knew the word fast. I only knew I had a ball in hand and I have to run in hard and bowl fast. In fact, I bowled faster during my formative years than now. I would impress everybody with my pace; however, I would still get ignored from the final list of players. But I realized that after making it to the final I had something. Also during my early years, I only knew about fast bowlers like Shoaib Akhtar, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis.

What is Mohammad Shami’s biggest strength?

Shami: I believe as an individual Confidence is very important. I have always been a confidence t individual. I play with a lot of conviction. The right attitude is very important. I never get intimidated that’s because I have a lot of confidence in my abilities. It helps when you are sure about yourself. I am unafraid of situations.

What has been your most memorable moment in cricket on and off the field?

Shami: When I joined the team, I was welcomed so wonderfully. It was so homely that I was not overawed by the occasion. My confidence grew further. There was no such thing as junior and senior. I would say my introduction was a very important moment for me in Indian cricket. Ektara kaapna pan that. (it was so homely and that feeling of oneness) . It is very important for any new comer to feel nice and wanted. So yes my first day with the Indian team was special and my most memorable moment. On the field, well, it was my match against Australia at Ranchi. I was bowling well and had a decent economy but was not getting a moment. At Ranchi, I remember things started falling into place. I was bowling with a lot of fire and things only got better from then on.

How has it been bowling under Dhoni?

Shami: Mahibhai gives me a lot of confidence. He shows a lot of faith in all his players. A captain plays a big role. Mahi backs me a lot and he never damages the confidence of the bowler if the bowler is having a bad day. He discusses with bowlers. He asks where and how u want to bowl. He is a lovely captain. Discuss with every bowler. More importantly, he listens to them and then further suggests. Never likes to impose his views but rather tries to work out the best possible solution. I have grown as a bowler under his captaincy.

How would you rate your World Cup performance?

Shami: If you remember, we were struggling in Australia. I told myself it’s high time we make use of the conditions as we are here for a while. I wanted to make an impact. We also realized momentum was important and for this to happen, we needed to start with a bang. We formed a good cohesive group. We did a lot of homework and worked on a lot of strategies. We needed a start well and couldn’t have asked for a better opponent than Pakistan. The whole country was charged up and needless to say, we were as well. And after that match, we never looked back. I was pleased with my bowling performance. We were all gutted after we lost to Australia after having played so well all through the World Cup

Describe Mohammad Shami the pace bowler?

Shami: I am a confidence bowler. I stick to the basics. I stick to my plans. I don’t leave the off tump. I am a stump to stump bowler. First I check the length. Depending on the wickets and seeing the carry I decide my length. So my main point is, if I am using new ball then I try bowling a lot of out swing deliveries. If I am bowling first change, then I focus on my line – not offering width. Depending on the condition ball, I work decide my strategy. However, I like maintaining a perfect line and length. I also watch the batsman. I do a little homework about the batsman.  God has been kind to give me so many wickets that I have done so much in so little time.

What do you have to say about the current pace attack on the Indian team?

Shami: I feel the current pace attack, the one that went for the 2015 World Cup is the best bowling attack Indian cricket has ever had. This is the best pace bowling combination in Indian team history. Its never been before that three bowlers have bowled in the 140 plus. It’s the best. We need to take it forward.

Are you ready to lead the Indian pace attack?

Shami: Yes, I am ready to lead the Indian pace attack. I did not know anything about seam swing when I start, over a period of time I improved upon it. I used to watch others bowling the ball and wanted to learn that from the seniors. Picking up and observing. Use it sparing. I have worked very hard on reverse swing. It does not come naturally. One must work hard on it. Bowling is about confidence. If you have it then u can do it.

Who has been your biggest Inspiration?

Shami: My family has played a great part. They have shown me the way and supported me a lot. Usually, most parents want the children to be doctor or engineer. But my family saw something special and they always encouraged me to play. My coach has been instrumental too. But I have been the decision maker. My family has made a lot of sacrifices and supported me in getting this far.

How much has Mohammad Shami changed?

Shami: I am still the same. I have not changed and I will never change. The love I had before is still the same. Humility and honesty is the key to success. My family principles precede my priorities; My attitude towards others has not changed. What you were is what you should be. Money and fame change people. I agree attitude and ego do come to people but I am still the same Shami and do not wish to change at all, after all, I have got this far with my hard work and humility.