Mohammed Shami's limited-overs career has witnessed a massive turnaround in 2019. Despite a successful 2015 World Cup with 17 wickets, the Bengal pacer did not play a single ODI for the next 27 months.
The prolonged absence from the limited-overs' scene was catalysed by a knee injury and hamstring issues but regular fitness problems and the emergence of pacers like Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah relegated Shami to just being a one-format, Test cricket, bowler.
However, India's search for the third seamer for the upcoming World Cup and Shami's searing form with the ball compelled selectors to take another look at the 29-year-old.
Shami has since grabbed the opportunity with both hands, having taken 19 wickets in 11 matches in 2019 leading to his selection in World Cup squad. The pacer credits his fitness and weight loss for rediscovering his bowling rhythm and also added that he's constantly looking to improve his art so as to remain a potent threat in limited-overs.
"I have worked very hard on my fitness in the last 12 months. I have lost a lot of weight. So I have made a lot of changes. As far as bowling improvements are concerned, I strongly believe that we need to constantly work on it. We need to regularly talk to coaches, mentors and should follow those tips," Shami told Firstpost.
Shami has successfully carried his form with white ball into the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). The Bengal pacer was bought for Rs 4.8 crore by Kings XI Punjab in the 2019 players auction and has proved to be a brilliant investment.
In 10 matches so far, he has picked 13 wickets and is the third-highest wicket-taking seamer in this year's edition.
Shami feels that he has been benefited by playing under R Ashwin at the Punjab franchise as the captain is well aware of his strengths.
"The best thing is that he knows me very well and also my skills. He has given me the full freedom and compliments me very well on the field as a captain with field settings and on other aspects," said Shami.
Ashwin is the only bowling captain in IPL, with an exception of Bhuvneshwar standing in for Kane Williamson for Sunrisers Hyderabad on few occasions. Batsmen are generally preferred as captains in cricket with very few bowlers being handed the leadership.
On being asked whether bowling captains can make good leaders, Shami sighted the example of India's World Cup win under Kapil Dev and added that a captain needs to be aware of "his surroundings, responsibilities and plan well to be successful" regardless of him being a batsman or a bowler.
Despite Shami's successful exploits with the ball, KXIP have had a mixed campaign so far. They have won five out of 10 matches and must at least win two matches off the remaining four games to book a spot in playoffs.
Shami is geared up for the upcoming challenge and is confident that KXIP would exceed the expectations in remaining league matches.
"Someone would say we need to win two out of four. I say we need to win three out of four. We need to be confident about our self. We need to back ourselves to win those matches. However, it's also important to stay in present and take one match at a time and give our best," the pacer said.
The IPL will soon be followed by the World Cup and that raised the question of players' workload management especially of pacers considering their vulnerability to injuries. However, Shami said that playing regularly helps him maintain his rhythm.
"As a player we want to play as much as possible to maintain the rhythm. BCCI will decide about our plans for resting, I cannot say anything on that," the KXIP bowlers remarked.
Talking about his bowling plans for the World Cup, Shami said the focus would be on maintaining discipline as England are expected to offer flat decks for the showpiece event. He added that the Indian bowling must not think too much about the pitches and conditions and must continue doing the good work.
"Regardless of conditions and pitches, the most important thing is to maintain a good line and length. Also, we have been quite successful as a bowling unit lately and it's important for us to follow our set plans for continued success," added Shami.
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