New Delhi: What started off as a brilliant year for India's fast-bowling spearhead Mohammed Shami in South Africa, has turned from bad to worse since. And the latest blow came on Monday when the team management found him unfit for the one-off Test against Afghanistan, starting on Thursday. The national selectors decided to name Navdeep Saini as replacement for the pacer after the latter failed to pass the now compulsory fitness test at the National Cricket Academy. Interestingly, his childhood coach Badruddin is surprised by the turn of events as his ward bowled full throttle at the nets in Moradabad a couple of days back before leaving for Bengaluru.
Speaking to CricketNext, Badruddin said, “I am quite taken aback by this news because he trained here in Moradabad with me a couple of days back and he looked fine to me. He did take time off after Delhi’s IPL campaign ended, but it wasn’t like he was losing shape of anything. He had been playing non-stop and then the issues at home was also troubling him, so we felt that cutting off from everything for a while would help him come back stronger. He bowled full throttle at the nets and even worked on his batting.”
Life turned topsy-turvy for Shami and his family ever since he returned from the tour of South Africa as his wife Hasin Jahan alleged that her husband had an affair with a Pakistani girl named Alisbah and also indulged in domestic violence against her. In fact, Shami and his elder brother Hasib Ahmad were questioned by the women’s grievance cell of Kolkata Police. On March 12, the Kolkata Police had sent a letter to the BCCI to know his travel details after the last T20 match in South Africa in February. He was later cleared by the police as well as the BCCI and he joined his IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils.
But things didn’t go as per plan in the IPL either. Shami played in just four matches in the cash-rich league and picked three wickets. But speaking to CricketNext, a member of the DD management said that fitness was not the issue for him missing the rest of the tournament and it was a decision taken on his form and performance.
“He was fit. The decision was related to his form and performance and had nothing to do with his fitness,” the member said, when asked if the pacer had fitness issues even during the IPL.
Shami himself had recently spoken in the media and said that he was looking to get back to his best ahead of the England tour. "I couldn't perform well in last few months due to my family problems, but I am confident that things will change in England," he had said. But the failure to pass the fitness test does come as a huge blow.
The fitness test (Yo-Yo Test) has become an integral part of the Indian team set-up and the duo of skipper Virat Kohli and coach Ravi Shastri have made it clear that players must pass the fitness test to be considered for selection in any of the three formats – Tests, ODIs and T20Is.
Saini, called in as replacement, was earlier flown in to South Africa as the Indian team management wasn’t too happy with the net bowlers being provided during the Test series in the Rainbow Nation. He was flown in along with Shardul Thakur and the two looked impressive at the nets as even Kohli preferred to play Saini for long hours at the nets to adjust to the pace and bounce that the South African bowlers would extract from the wickets there.
The Indian team management also requested that India ‘A’ fast bowlers Mohammed Siraj and Rajneesh Gurbani to attend the training sessions of the Indian team and bowl at the Indian batsmen in the nets. A request was also made for Ankit Rajpoot, but the Uttar Pradesh fast bowler is unwell.