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ICC World Cup 2023 – Mohammed Shami has no regrets sitting out earlier World Cup games


ICC World Cup 2023 – Mohammed Shami has no regrets sitting out earlier World Cup games


Mohammed Shami didn’t “feel bad” sitting and watching the first four games from the sidelines. He was only focusing on preparing as if he was going to play, and grab opportunities when they come his way.

On Sunday, an injury to Hardik Pandya forced India to alter their balance. Out went Shardul Thakur and Shami had the chance he’d been after. He struck with his very first delivery to remove Will Young and then made a mark later in the innings, with an excellent spell of death bowling to finish with 5 for 54, his second World Cup five-for.

Also, among his wickets were those of the well-set Rachin Ravindra and Mitchell Santner. Shami’s spell helped India pull New Zealand back from an expected 320 to a below-par 273. In bowling the way he did, Shami gave the Indian team management more food for thought as far as team composition goes.

“When you come back after a long time to the XI, it is important to get confidence early,” Shami said at the post-match presentation. “My first game in the World Cup helped me regain that confidence. It’s not too hard (waiting on the sidelines) if your team is doing well.”

Shami was asked of the frustration of sitting outside seemingly for no fault of his. He only lost out to Shardul for the sake of team balance, with the side preferring a bowling allrounder to occupy the No. 8 position, one they deviated from in the wake of Hardik’s injury. It left India run the risk of having no back-up bowlers, but it didn’t cost them in Dharamsala.

“They are your team-mates and if they are doing well then you should be supporting them,” Shami said when asked about warming the bench. “If it’s in the team’s interest, I am okay with it. The wickets were important as it came against an opponent, which was sitting top of the points table going into this clash.”

Shami was probed further. He was asked how he kept his motivation high. His response gave you a peek into his thought process, one that needs clarity and clear communication from the team management. This one, led by Rahul Dravid and Rohit Sharma, have been big on it. Very early on, Shami, and the rest of the playing group, was spoken to of their roles within the setup.

“Personally, my outlook is simple: you keep enjoying,” he said. “This is the biggest sport, biggest place in cricket. You have 15 players. Four of them have to stay out. So, by being positive and enjoying the moment, you will get results. I always think to myself, I may not be here today, but I will be here tomorrow. If not tomorrow, then the day after tomorrow. We will definitely come in at some stage with rotation. And when your time comes, you contribute for the team. I think that way.”

Shami glanced a look towards his colleague Mohammed Siraj, who was waiting to speak at the mixed zone soon after the press conference, when asked of the team culture and how the bowling group works together.

Shami had seen Siraj leapfrog him to become India’s bowling spearhead during the period Bumrah spent in the sidelines with a back injury. It meant Shami was consigned to being the third frontline pacer in a XI where only two could feature due to team dynamics.

“We have a good package,” he said of the bowling group. “You get to see it. You get the pace. You get to see the aggression. As far as enjoying is concerned, I have told you before, that if you enjoy the success of others, you will get better results. And the medal of the dressing room as well [for the best fielder], I believe we will get one today as well once we return to dressing room.”

Did he have any favourites among the five wickets?

“All dismissals are my favourites,” he said, “It is difficult to pick one, it is like making a building, every brick matters and so is the case with every wicket, they all matter a lot.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo


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