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Our fast-bowling unit thrives on challenges: Shami

Following his impressive run in the IPL, the fast bowler is high on confidence ahead of the gruelling Australian tour

By Moulin Parikh in

It has been one week since the Indian Cricket Team arrived in Australia for the long multi-format tour. While the squad remains in quarantine, the boys have been training simultaneously both with the white and red ball.

The famed fast bowling unit which is currently without their most experienced campaigner, Ishant Sharma is preparing for another long haul. The pacers have arrived in Australia on the back of an impressive run of over two years. 

They were lethal on the tours of South Africa, England, Australia and at home against the Protea before India’s last international tour in New Zealand earlier this year. 

Since 2018, the Indian fast bowlers not only have the most number of wickets, but they also have the best average. The Indian quicks have 292 wickets in 24 matches at an average of 21.33. In the same period, they recorded 15 five-wicket hauls, the most by any country. Among the pacers with most wickets in away Test matches in the last two years, the trio of Jasprit Bumrah (68), Mohammed Shami (61) and Ishant Sharma (53) top the list followed by Pat Cummins (51) and Mohammed Abbas (48). 

Under Virat Kohli’s captaincy, Indian bowlers (fast and slow combined) have picked 17.33 wickets per Test, the second-most under any Test captain who has led his team in a minimum of 20 matches. 

The bowling group has come of age and they have managed to take the pitch out of the equation much to the delight of bowling coach B. Arun and Head Coach Ravi Shastri. 

 In an interview with BCCI.TV, Mohammed Shami speaks about his personal form, the closely-knit fast bowling group and the marquee series against Australia. 

You took 20 wickets and had an impressive run in the IPL for KXIP. Your performance in the twin Super Overs was phenomenal. It reminded us of your hat-trick against Afghanistan in the World Cup. 

Being able to defend just 5 runs against two most explosive batsmen (Rohit Sharma and Quinton de Kock) is thoroughly satisfying. There is no margin for error when the target is so small. I don’t think anybody would have given us a chance against such top-class batters. I remained hopeful and backed my skills. When you are bowling yorkers there is a chance that you will end up bowling a low full toss, but I am happy I could execute my skills.  

The margin was very less in the World Cup clash against Afghanistan. I had to get my yorkers right. We were favourites to win and the game had gone right down to the wire. I am glad I could help India win that game and, in the course, also got my hat-trick. Such moments stay with you for a long time. 

We had no cricket for nearly six months and now you are in Australia on the back of a strong show in the IPL. That must have given you a lot of confidence. 

My performances for KXIP in IPL has given me a lot of confidence and put me in the right zone. The biggest advantage is that I can now prepare for the upcoming series without any pressure. There is no burden on me. I am very comfortable at the moment. I had worked hard on my bowling and my fitness in the lockdown. I knew that IPL would take place sooner or later and I was preparing myself for it. 

We have spent exactly one week in quarantine in Sydney now. The boys have been training every day. What has been the focus area? 

We are going to have a long tour starting with the white ball followed by pink and red ball Tests. My focus area has been the red ball and I am working on my lengths and seam movement. I have always felt that once you start pitching the ball at the lengths you desire, you can succeed in different formats. What you need is control. I have done well with the white-ball and now spending time in the nets bowling with the red ball. You don’t bowl in the same area since both formats are different, but your basics don’t change much.    

India’s fast-bowling unit has stamped its authority in the last few years. Be it South Africa, England, Australia or even at home. The fast bowlers have been relentless. 

The success of this group is largely because of the camaraderie we share among ourselves. There is no real secret as such but it lies in each other’s strengths. We have a common goal and all of us look to collectively achieve that. There is a healthy competition but there is no rivalry within the group. If you look at the numbers, we have managed to pick 20 wickets almost on all our away tours. Even at home in the Freedom Trophy or the pink-ball Test, the fast bowling group was very effective. We have a lot of discussion among ourselves. We hunt in pairs. 

Indian bowlers played a huge role in India’s maiden Test series win here in 2018-19. The challenge will be bigger this time

Our fast bowling group can bowl at 140 kph plus and you need that kind of pace in Australia. Even our reserves are quick, you don’t get to see that kind of an attack. We thrive on challenges. We have the experience. We have variety in our spin bowling attack too. We can bowl fast but we are all different, our skills are different. India have quality batsmen and we bowl at them in the nets. We don’t look at names, we focus on our skills. You can be a world-class batsman, but one good ball will still get you out.