Southampton: "Simple plan. He is a bowler, there was only one option - to bowl a yorker on the stumps. Mahi bhai also said the same thing, don’t try to change anything. You have a great chance of getting a hat-trick, such chances are very rare, you have to do the same thing. I did that and I'm very happy that I got the hat-trick."
Mohammed Shami's last ball, the plans for which he describes above, capped a perfect comeback to the Indian XI for the speedster. A perfect yorker too good for No. 11 Mujeeb Ur Rahman made Shami only the second Indian, and tenth bowler in the world, to get a World Cup hat-trick. More importantly, it sealed a thrilling win for India in a low-scoring encounter against Afghanistan in Southampton.
Shami was not in India's XI for the first four matches and got a chance only due to the injury to Bhuvneshwar Kumar. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands, bowling well with the new ball and in the death to finish with 4 for 40. He provided the first breakthrough in the chase bowling Hazratullah Zazai in a tremendous first spell of 6-0-18-1. He then came back in the death, dismissing Mohammad Nabi, Aftab Alam and Mujeeb for a hat-trick in the last over.
There were plenty of nervous moments between the two phases, with Afghanistan nearly pulling off a spirited chase of 225. Nabi took them deep with a 55-ball 52, but death bowling by Jasprit Bumrah, Shami and support from other bowlers helped India sail through.
Shami conceded Nabi sent some nerves through the Indian side, but said it was important for the bowlers not to show it.
"At one point, given the flow with which Nabi was batting, there was some irritation in the mind but it is better if you don’t express it to the batsman," Shami said. "There was just one thing in the mind that if Nabi gets out, the match is ours. He was the only batsman who could build their innings, who could score, who could irritate us, and he was irritating us. But you must not show what your weakness is, what your doubts are. Never show the minus points. You must also be aggressive, you must always show the intent that yes, we are in control. The plan was to just go and show intent."
In the end, Shami was tasked with defending 16 off the final over. The first ball went for a four, but once he got Nabi in the third ball, the game was done.
"There is nothing to think. 16 needed off six balls, you had to just execute your plans," Shami said. "You had to back yourself, there are not too many options available to you. The more variations you try out, the greater the chances of you going for runs. In my mind, what I felt was that I should execute my plans, no matter what the batsman tries to do.
"The wicket was much better in the second innings compared to the first innings. We had only one plan – to not pitch the ball up because if you did so, the ball was coming nicely on to the bat. The other thing is that they are a little suspect against the bouncers. So that was our plan, to vary the length and use the bouncers."
India's trainer Shankar Basu had praised Shami for lifting his fitness levels over the last one year, calling him Shami 2.0. Shami too elaborated on the process that has helped him raise the bar after a knee injury post the World Cup 2015.
"It was a long period of time, this journey has been for two years," said Shami on his improved fitness. "I was a little heavy after the injury and I could feel the heaviness, I would get some tightness also. I had a surgery on my knee as well. Only thing was that if you wanted to play for long, if you wanted to stay in cricket, you had to do something extra.
"I had to cut something – everyone laughs when I say it but I follow my diet. I don’t diet strictly but the things that the doctors say I should not take, I generally don’t eat that. So it is a benefit for me that I don’t eat sweets, I don’t eat breads. That has been beneficial to me in following my diet. During the match, it doesn’t matter, you need to be calm.
"As far as getting a chance is concerned, that depends on your luck. I was waiting that if I get a chance, I will show my skill. And as far as the hat-trick is concerned, I am very happy. I am grateful to God that I got the hat-trick. It’s a very rare thing to get a World Cup hat-trick, so I am very happy."