Trainer Shankar Basu called him Mohammed Shami 2.0. Bowling coach Bharat Arun lauded him for improving his fitness in the last one year. The results are showing, and India are reaping benefits of a fit and firing Shami in the World Cup. Shami has two four-wicket hauls in as many matches, against Afghanistan and West Indies.
A year ago, Shami failed the fitness test and was left out of the Test against Afghanistan. Shami said his fitness issues was firmly in the past.
"Anything is possible in a yo-yo test...at that time, your rhythm might also be bad. Yes, I failed, that’s true," he said after bowling India to a win over West Indies. "But the one thing is I have improved my fitness a lot. I am in my comfort zone, I have lost weight, my rhythm is good. Everything is going well. I am trying to ensure that that rhythm, that diet that I have been following, I maintain it."
In a jovial way, Shami said he had only himself to thank for the turnaround and said the 'comfort zone' helped him bowl faster.
"Credit for that? I would like to give to myself because I am the one who was faced with the biggest challenges," he laughed. "In the last one and a half to two years, whatever has happened, I am the one who has confronted and experienced that. Credit I will give myself. Yes, God did give me the courage to fight my issues – fitness and family. I am now trying to do better for the country."
"I am in my comfort zone. The moment I lost weight, I found a rhythm for myself, there is a good feeling. Along with that, you feel a force. Tiredness is also less so obviously the speed will increase. As far as skill is concerned, I have full faith in myself that whatever be the wicket I can express my abilities. I have the belief that I can do it. I stay ready when I get my chance so that I can execute my skills."
One of Shami's strengths, which has been on display in the two games in particular, is the seam position.
"It's a long process, you have to work hard and practice," he said. "You have to continue working till you get the result. I always try to keep the seam straight and get benefits off the pitch - it cuts or seams - so I try to do that. I like bowling with the new ball in the nets too. I practice my seam positions in the nets, you have to know which way the ball will go - whether it comes in or goes out - that's very important. We were noticing that the ball was cutting, seaming and the bounce wasn't proper. So we just had to focus on line and length."
Shami started West Indies' downfall with the wicket of Chris Gayle, who was cramped for room as he pulled a short ball to mid-on. Shami said that was the plan, and added that he doesn't bother if batsmen come hard in the upcoming game against England too.
"We have been together during the IPL," he said of Gayle. "Once you play, you get an idea. The one thing that I thought was that if I don’t allow him to open his arms, then it will be good because at some stage, he will go for it.
"There is no point trying to assess someone else. If you believe in yourself, it will be better because if your skill is better, then it will definitely trouble the other. If you focus on your skills and plans and execution, then I feel the opposition will be in trouble rather than look at the name of the batsman or look at the name of the team."