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Now I know the importance of fitness: Shami

Fit and hungry, Mohammed Shami is bowling at his best and is pivotal to the success of the Indian team. In a conversation with Boria Majumdar, he opens up on his form, his pace colleagues and sacrificing biryani to improve fitness.

, ET Bureau|
Nov 25, 2019, 11.17 PM IST
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Fit and hungry, Mohammed Shami is bowling at his best and is pivotal to the success of the Indian team. As Wriddhiman Saha, who keeps wickets to Shami, said in jest, “Each time he is running in hard, he is bowling some 10 kmph faster and the ball is coming in with a thud into my gloves! I have never seen him bowl better and bowl with such fire.”

Shami on the other hand just wants to stay in the present and do what he is doing. While savouring the comeback to white-ball cricket, New Zealand is already well and truly on his radar as he is enjoying the aftereffects of the pink-ball Test.

In a conversation with Boria Majumdar, he opens up on his form, his pace colleagues and sacrificing biryani to improve fitness. Excerpts:

You are bowling exceptionally well at the moment. What is it that you are doing differently?
Thank you. I have to say I have now come to terms with my game. I have now learnt that I need to stay fit to bowl with pace and skill. I know how important it is to have clarity on what I need to do. I am aware of my responsibilities and we as a bowling unit are working together on the job at hand. It is not about Mohammed Shami the individual. It is about us as a bowling group complementing each other.

Yes, it’s apparent that all of you are enjoying each other’s success. Elaborate about this a little more.

Take the Kolkata Test for example. Umesh (Yadav) and Ishant (Sharma) picked up the bulk of the wickets. And some have asked me why was I bowling short on Day 2. My job was to bowl fast and bowl short and push the batsmen back. I was setting them up and Umesh and Ishant were picking up wickets from the other end. That’s what I mean by working as a team. In Indore I had picked up wickets while here in Kolkata it was Umesh and Ishant.

You look lean and in great shape. Probably fitter than you ever have been.

Yes, I am in the best physical shape I have ever been. Pehle itna jante nahi the, pata nahi tha ki kya karna hai. (Earlier I didn’t know much; didn’t know what I needed to do). With time I have learnt what all I need to do to stay fit. I have stopped eating biryani, which I love to eat. Yes, I had a little biryani the day before in the dressing room but that was just for the taste. When you come to Kolkata, it is impossible to stay off it completely! But, honestly speaking, I have given up on all my indulgences. I feel much better and I know to do what I do for my team I have to make a few sacrifices. The love and affection I get from Indian cricket fans more than make up for it.

How difficult was it to move to a fundamentally different lifestyle?

It was difficult. Having said that I was doing it for India, for my country and the moment it is about India, nothing else matters. Now I eat a lot of boiled stuff and have given up on all the spicy food that I used to love. Look, it is very simple — if you want something badly, you will have to give up on some other things. I have made my choice.

Give us an insight into your training.
I put in my 100 per cent into the practice sessions. You can ask Wriddhi (Wriddhiman Saha) and he will tell you at times I bowl faster during practice! There will surely be a few balls that will hurry the batsmen for that’s my way of getting them ready as well. Unless you take every practice session with the same seriousness, you can’t just turn up for a match and bowl well. The rhythm that you see is the result of hours of practice and I am not done yet. I still have a lot to learn and feel with every single day I can improve more. I will work harder and learn more and try and win more games for India. That’s the only thing in my mind.

You’ve been through a lot of personal challenges. Do you feel all the more vindicated that you have now left all the trauma behind and that you are back in the limited-overs team as well?
There will always be challenges. And like everyone I have had my share of challenges. But I have never given up on working hard. Never compromised on the effort that was needed. And it feels very good to make a comeback in the white-ball team. I would love to contribute and make a difference for we have a World Cup coming up in less than a year from now, which we are determined to do well in.
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