The making of Mohammed Shami

DD pacer reveals admiration for Steyn; hopes to emulate Akram and Zak

Delhi 05 May 2014
Fast bowlers are expected to be tall and imposing personalities who can glare down at batsman. But Mohammed Shami is quite the opposite. One has rarely seen the wiry pacer glare at or exchange words with batsmen. Soft spoken and humble, Shami has gone about his tasks with quiet determination. Not just with the ball, Shami has also shown patience with the bat to hold up one end while helping the other batsman add runs.

His ability to take up a challenge and come up trumps has been evident since his childhood days when he was still finding his feet in the gentleman’s game. In his very first match while playing with the leather ball, Shami was sent to open the innings by his elder brother. The result – Shami struck a century and later picked up three wickets to round up a good outing on the field.

In an exclusive interview with in Delhi, Shami spoke about his game, his admiration for Dale Steyn, his desire to reverse the ball like Wasim Akram and his wish to emulate Zaheer Khan’s line and length.

Excerpts from his interview:

When did you first play with the leather ball?

I think I was in ninth standard when my elder brother (who was also a fast bowler) let me play with him for the first time. I was a bowler too but I didn’t even know how to grip the ball. My brother made me bat in that game and sent me to open the innings. I remember being scared when I walked out in the middle to bat. I still remember the delivery that touched my bat and zipped past, I gained confidence from then on. I scored 103 runs and picked up three wickets later. Having said that, I had no idea about technique or what line and length means while bowling.

When did you first come to terms with pressure in a competitive game?

The semifinal against Tamil Nadu in a Syed Mushtaq Ali match. I was given the ball and asked to defend nine runs in the last over. At that time, I realised what responsibility and pressure is all about.

Do you remember your first wicket in domestic cricket?

I think it was during my debut against Assam in the Ranji Trophy. Amol Muzumdar used to play for Assam back then and I claimed his wicket.

Still early days in your international cricketing career but is there a wicket that you claimed you cherish the most?

Representing India in ODIs, I played in a lot of tight matches. I remember the ODI series against Australia in 2013. The wickets I took in my first game of the series at Ranchi have been the best for me so far. Getting the wickets of quality batsmen like Shane Watson and Aaron Finch during the series was good. The deliveries I bowled to them seemed the best to me.

You have played with Zaheer Khan and had an opportunity to work with Wasim Akram who are amongst the best exponents of swing bowling. What have you learnt from your interactions with them?

For both of them, pace is the most important aspect with line and length and swing to follow. It means a lot for a youngster like me when senior fast bowlers share that kind of knowledge.

Zaheer bhai tells me, ‘Don’t let your pace drop and keep your line and length in control. It shouldn’t happen in the pursuit of pace that you stray in line and length. And then (if you have control over those aspects), you have a good chance to extract swing as well.’

Wasim bhai also tells me that swing is important for a bowler. I keep their inputs in mind and keep working on them.

You have been reversing the ball and getting wickets. How have you worked towards it?

When I began playing, I didn’t know much about it, but when I started playing domestic cricket and played with senior players, I was able to get a handle on things. The SG Test ball swings well and also reverses. And then upon meeting a lot of seniors, including Zaheer bhai and Wasim bhai, I have always tried to learn something from everyone, and I will continue to do so.

If you had to take one thing from Zaheer Khan and Wasim Akram, what will it be?

From Wasim - Reverse swing, and from Zaheer - line and length.

Who has influenced your bowling the most?

Currently, I like Dale Steyn. Earlier, I would admire Pakistan’s pace attack. I would adore Pakistan’s bowling attack that had the likes of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram. Now with God’s grace, I get to meet them and talk to them.

Who has been the most difficult to bowl to?

I had the most problem while bowling to my Delhi Daredevils captain, Kevin Pietersen. He is tall and shuffles a lot in the crease. You bowl a bouncer to him, it ends up being too short and he would hit you immediately. If you pitch it up, he has such a long stride that he can reach the ball and drive it. So you have to judge the line and length correctly. The ODI series against England was the most difficult for me.

So now, are you happy that you don’t have to bowl at him?

Now, I am ready for anyone. I am working all the time to improve.

What are you working on currently?

The Test series in England is in sight but right now, the focus is on the IPL. So here I am working on where to bowl the Yorker and work on bowling at the right line and length.

What has it been like to work with DD’s coach Gary Kirsten?

This is the first time I am working with him. He is good and always gives valuable inputs on how to get better.

You also have Eric Simons in the Daredevils setup who has been working with bowlers for a long time. What has your interactions with him been like?

I have always wanted to speak to Eric Simons and TA Sekar and I got that opportunity this time representing DD. I have been working with Simons who has a great insight on bowling. He notices your bowling and tells you where you are going wrong and how to work on them. He is also giving me good inputs on getting the Yorkers right.

Since you started playing, which coach has had the most influence on you?

I want to learn something from everyone. In the Indian team, we have Joe Dawes and Duncan Fletcher who help a lot. They don’t put you under pressure and they handle things well. They explain well and show you what needs to be done, which feels good. 
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