With 86 wickets in 25 Test Matches, Mohammed Shami has become India’s best bowler in the longer format of the game. In the test series in Sri Lanka a few months back, he was lethal with the ball in his hand, taking 10 vital wickets for his team. As another test series between India and Sri Lanka knocking at the door and this time on Indian soil, Shami, the premium fast bowler of India gives an exclusive interview to CricketSoccer.com.
Here are the excerpts:
CricketSoccer (CS): As Sri Lanka series knocking at the door, how is your preparation going on?
Mohammed Shami (MS): It’s been pretty good. I have played three Ranji Trophy (Premiere Domestic Tournament in India) matches for Bengal this season. I have been training hard and bowling a lot in the nets. The feeling is very good. I am quite confident to do well against Sri Lanka at home.
CS: India will play the first match at Eden Gardens. You will get to play at your home ground. How is the feeling to represent the national team and that too in front of the home crowd?
MS: Playing at Eden Gardens is always very special to me. I played my debut test at this very ground against West Indies and that was the last series of Sachin Tendulkar. I still remember that I was able to pick 9 wickets in that match and India had won quite comfortably. I collected one stump used in that match as a memento and kept it in the drawing room of my house. I still get motivated whenever I see the stump. It makes me believe that yes, I can. It’s very inspirational to me. I have 15 wickets in the two test matches that I played at Eden if I am not wrong. It always feels great to get success at home ground. I am confident enough that I can continue my good run at Eden Gardens in the match against Sri Lanka too. I know the wicket and the condition of Eden pretty well. I know how to bowl on this surface. It will be a great advantage for me.
CS: Usually you share the new ball with Umesh Yadav in India’s test team. How is your understanding with Umesh and how does it help you to do better?
MS: Yes, Umesh and I have been longtime friends. When you play with a cricketer for a longer period of time, there must be some sort of understanding. I and Umesh enjoy that bonding. I know what line he is going to bowl and what is his preferred line of attack. At the same time, Umesh knows how I bowl. It makes our understanding better and makes us more deadly for the batsmen. Sometimes in a match, I get wicket and Umesh creates pressure from the other end. Sometimes he gets a wicket and I play the supportive role. That’s how bowling in partnership works. I and Umesh complement each other.
CS: India won the test series in Sri Lanka and it was a one-sided affair. What is going to happen this time?
MS: Obviously we will start the series as favourite. We definitely have the edge. We are going through a very good phase in all the three formats of the game. Recently we have defeated Australia and New Zealand at home. We will look for consistency in this series.
CS: Will you predict another whitewash?
MS: (laughs) I hope so. But in cricket, you never know. All depends on how we execute our plans on the field and how we react according to the situation. Fitness will also play a vital role as we have to play a lot of matches almost back to back. Still, if we play to our potential, there is every chance that we make another 3-0 against Sri Lanka.
CS: Are you trying to master any special ball in the nets?
MS: Look, I think you have to be prepared to learn every time you take the field. I am also very open to learn and practice new things in the nets. I don’t want to disclose what exactly it is. But in Test cricket, you don’t have enough space for experimentation. Sticking to the basics helps a lot. I usually focus to bowl in right areas which is the key to success in the longer format.
CS: You are one of the few bowlers in world cricket who can use both the new and old balls with similar efficiency. What is your individual preference, bowling with the new ball or with an older one?
MS: I enjoy bowling with both the new and old balls. I like the swing that I can generate with the new ones. At the same time, I love the reverse swing that is there on offer with the old balls. I don’t have any so called preference. Whenever captain gives me the ball, I give my hundred percent and try to contribute to my team.
CS: Virat Kohli being an aggressive captain, how supportive is his role in your success?
MS: Virat obviously helps a lot. As you say, he is an aggressive cricketer and likes to play a positive brand of cricket. He is always eager to go for wickets rather than restraining the flow of runs. It’s been really great if your captain gives you the freedom to bowl to your strength and go for wickets. Virat has played a major role in our success.