CHANDIGARH: Mohammed Shami has endured one too many swings of misfortune in his career. The Indian pacer, who has recovered from the fractured forearm he suffered during the first Test in Australia in mid-December, is eager to make a comeback to competitive cricket.
“It was an unfortunate injury. Now that I have recovered, I can’t wait to hit the ground running for the Punjab Kings in the upcoming IPL,” Shami told TOI in an exclusive interview.
“It is tough to make a comeback after an injury layoff. At the same time, it has given me more time to prepare for the IPL. The T20 is not an easy format for the fast bowlers, but once I knew that I would not be fit for the Test series against England at home, I targeted the IPL as my comeback tournament,” he said.
Here’s what Shami had to say on various issues:
On workload management
In the recently-concluded ODI series against England, all-rounder Hardik Pandya bowled in only one match. The Indian skipper called it ‘part of workload management’ ahead of crucial assignments like England’s tour later this year. A few days later, Bhuvneshwar Kumar said that red ball is his priority. With the Test series in England on mind, he will be monitoring his workload in the IPL. “Workload management is something you can’t ignore anymore. We fast bowlers will have to be take extra care of our bodies because of the amount of cricket being played,” said Shami.
When asked if the pacers’ workload management becomes more important after they reach a certain age, the 30-year-old replied: “Age has nothing to do with it. Workload is something that a fast bowler should monitor from a very young age. The most difficult job in cricket is fast bowling; the more you take care of your body, the longer your career will be.”
On life in bio-bubble
The cricketers are suffering due to months spent inside a bio-secure bubble life. The new normal has taken a toll mentally on the players. From September to January, Indian players went through similar quarantine and isolation regimes in the delayed 2020 IPL in the UAE and their tour of Australia. They were back into the bubble after a short break ahead of the home England series. After another short break they are getting back into the IPL bubble.
“Living in the bio-bubble is very difficult. Aapko fresh air milna bhi mushkil ho jata hai (You struggle to even get fresh air). It is even worse during the mandatory quarantine because you are locked inside a room for seven days. It is suffocating,” Shami said. “After the injury, I have spent most of my time inside a bubble. I could have gone back home but decided against it due to the Covid situation in our country. The only good thing about a bubble is team bonding. You get to know each other much better, and it does improve your performance on the field,” Shami added.
On Punjab Kings
IPL 2020, played in the UAE, was Shami’s best season in terms of wickets. He got 20 wickets from 14 games with a strike rate of 16.10 and an economy rate of 8.57. However, he didn’t get much help from the other end and the Mohali-based franchise failed to make the playoffs. This time around, they have bolstered the fast bowling department by buying Jhye Richardson and Riley Meredith. “The squad is looking more balanced. Both of them (Richardson and Meredith) have got pace, and I am looking forward to bowling with them in tandem,” said Shami.
On Punjab Kings’ chances to qualify for the playoffs, Shami said: “In IPL, you can’t predict anything. Yes, after mid-season, you get a clearer idea. My only focus is on taking wickets and winning matches for Punjab Kings,” he said.
On the England tour coming up in August
Shami is not thinking about the England tour yet. He doesn’t want to make too many plans as they can backfire due to various reasons. “When you play long enough, you stop making long-term plans. It never works. I have learned it in a hard way, and I take one tournament at a time. At present, my sole focus is on the IPL; I am not thinking about anything else. I am fit, I have got my rhythm back and I am confident of doing well in the IPL,” he said.