New Delhi: Earning millions for a top Indian cricketer isn’t a big deal but spending those millions to take one’s game to the next level isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.
But then Mohammed Shami wouldn’t have been an exceptional cricketer had he not shown time and again why he is away from the grind.
As he became the first Indian cricketer to pick two five-fors in World Cups, the process of success in white ball cricket started far from the city life at his Sahaspur Alinagar village in Uttar Pradesh where he has built a full-size cricket ground with multiple pitches.
He built the ground to ensure that he doesn’t have to travel to the city for access to top-class facilities.
“There is nothing else in Shami’s life apart from cricket. When he is not playing for India, he is always thinking about upgrading his skills. When he took a break during West Indies tour earlier this year, he had already started thinking about World Cup.
“He regularly practised at the ground he has built here in the village with his own money,” his childhood coach and mentor Mohammed Badruddin told PTI on Sunday after his ward took 5/54 against New Zealand in Dharamsala.
When Shami was dropped from India’s ODI set-up after an indifferent series in Australia back in 2020, even his greatest of supporters wouldn’t have envisaged that he could have a second coming in white ball cricket despite his wide-ranging skill-sets with the red cherry.
But in Indian cricket, discounting Shami from any form of the game should be done at one’s own peril as he would time and again force his detractors to eat a humble pie.
There was a gap of nearly 19 months between November 2020 and July, 2022 before Shami got a recall in the 50 over format.
It was a bit of luck and a lot of pluck that went into his recall. The breakdown of Jasprit Bumrah and Prasidh Krishna meant that India’s 50 over bowling arsenal needed experience and who better than the ‘Amroha Express’ to fill up that void.
“The best part about this current Indian team is the kind of communication it has had with senior players. Shami always knew that he would be required at some point in time and for that he was always prepared.
“He knows these conditions and you can see that he has been using a lot of cross-seam deliveries. Trust me, hours of practice has gone into perfecting that art,” Badruddin said.
When asked about Shami’s personal routine, Badruddin gave his insight.
“Shami has invested his own money to build a full-size cricket facility and there are three strips on which he bowls. One is a completely flat deck where one needs to bowl the hard lengths, one track where there is a sprinkling of grass and bald patches and other where the ball grips.
“He creates situations for himself and prepares accordingly,” said the coach.
It’s not just about converting his own farmland into a cricket ground but he also constructed floodlights so that he can bowl with the white ball at nights.
“He wanted to do well in IPL and you can see his performances for Gujarat Titans in the last two seasons. He would bowl with wet balls under lights to replicate the dew factor, practice those change of pace deliveries. We would get good U-19, U-23 boys, who would face Shami in nets.
“Paise sabhi kamate hain and lekin apne bahtari ki liye aapko paisa kharcha bhi karna padhta hai. (You can earn money but you have to invest also to upgrade your skills).
“We all want that BCCI uses this facility created by Shami for its age-group games. It is a full size ground as per board specifications,” Badruddin said.
The legendary Andy Roberts, in his various interviews, has spoken about what exactly goes into making of a good fast bowler.
“You bowl fast not because you have a muscular upper body but because you have strong legs,” Roberts would often say.
Badruddin said that Shami’s fitness isn’t all about pumping irons at the gym although he has also built a mini-gym at his residence.
“He has gym in his house only. But he runs a lot and that is not on the ground. When he is not on national assignment, he would run through his own farmland here in Alinagar.
“Now if you run through the farm field, the base is soft and for every stride, you need to put in more effort. So when you are running on a cricket field, you feel lighter on feet,” the coach explained.
Mohammed Shami has shown his worth. For the umpteenth time.
(Published 22 October 2023, 16:17 IST)