Mohammed Shami doesn’t believe in ‘setting specific goals’, but he already has set a target for the year – to guide India to title glory in the T20 World Cup, scheduled to be held in June in the United States of America and the West Indies.
India came close to breaking its ICC title jinx last year, reaching the final of the ODI World Cup – before falling to Australia – and Shami played a key hand in the team’s campaign.
With 24 wickets, he emerged as the top wicket-taker of the tournament – which also earned him the Sportsman of the Year in team sports at the Sportstar Aces Awards on Thursday.
While he has been out of action in the ongoing Test series against England due to an injury, Shami believes that ‘playing games with his mind’ and having plans according to the situation has been the key to his success.
“I don’t keep specific goals. I change my plans according to the situation and adapt. It is important to be open to going with your recent circumstances, fitness and other elements to make the whole package. And I do just that. I play games with my own mind on the basis of this and see how I feel,” Shami told Sportstar.
In the ODI World Cup, India’s pace battery – comprising Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj – maintained dominance, and having seen the evolution of the pace department, Shami believes that the change did not happen overnight. It took a lot of effort, hard work and sweat for the fast bowlers to come so far.
“What people got to see in the 2023 World Cup is the product of seven-eight years of hard work. That effort built a certain confidence and trust which then came through in how we performed. The connection and faith the unit has in each other are why this pace battery has become this potent,” Shami said, adding with a smile: “Hopefully the pace battery continues to run successfully for more time and find more success…”
On the Indian surfaces that often seem to aid the spinners and the batters, things are not quite easy for the fast bowlers. But over the last few years, a collective effort by the Indian Cricket Board (BCCI) and the team management has seen the focus being shifted to grooming fast bowlers and that move has clearly worked wonders.
“In India, coming up as a fast bowler is very challenging. The Indian team and conditions are often hailed for their batting. For bowlers to be right up there and do that, has been rare. But now, that bit has gone to the next level and in different conditions. For us (the fast bowlers) to be able to do it well and that too, at home, is definitely praiseworthy,” Shami added.
While he had a memorable outing in the World Cup, he had to sit out for the first few games, and an injury to Hardik Pandya eventually paved his way into the playing eleven, and the seasoned campaigner made the most of the opportunity. He, however, credits it to the hard work and preparation.
“The year was good because of the hard work that we put in, all the preparation we put in ahead of the World Cup was really good. Before that, the IPL also went well, so my confidence was in a good place. I was enjoying myself through my performances because the platform was set,” he said. “The set-up was good, and the output was good. Only one thing was missing from our 2023 campaign (was the title), and I hope we can get that in 2024…”
With four months to go for yet another ICC event, getting into shape and contributing to the team’s campaign remains Shami’s target.