New Delhi: If there is one Indian cricketer who kept working on his game even during the coronavirus-induced lockdown, it was pace spearhead Mohammed Shami.
Thanks to the facilities available at home, he did not miss training and the pacer said that has benefited him immensely now that he is back on the ground preparing for the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL).
Speaking to ANI, Shami threw light on the six-day quarantine period after reaching UAE, the hunger among players to play, the absence of fans this IPL, the much-debated saliva ban and how he wishes to help young captain KL Rahul on the pitch by sharing his inputs with the bowling unit.
While one would think that getting onto the plane and reaching the UAE for the IPL would have been a relief after spending months in lockdown at home, the Kings XI Punjab (KXIP) pacer begged to differ. He said the six days inside the hotel room was harder for him.
“Four months have been difficult for everyone, be it sportsman or a normal person. Thank god I had the facilities to do my own training. When we came here (UAE) and got quarantined, these six days felt more difficult than those four months because in those months I was training myself, helped the needy and was busy in activities. But in these six days, I have felt how difficult those four months must have been for people. Now it feels comfortable on the field.
Training during lockdown
“The training I have done (during lockdown) has helped now. The stiffness isn’t there and it has felt more like I took a break for recovery. The body feels good and in rhythm. The normal flow is missing in some. Those who played in the Caribbean Premier League are looking in flow, but those who have been stuck indoors are looking a little stiff. Important to use the 25 to 30 days going into the tournament,” he explained.
Shami said for sportspersons it is even more difficult because they have been used to running around all life and have hardly seen a phase where they have been stuck indoors unless they have an injury.
“When you are habituated to running around 24×7, it is very difficult to stay at home, especially for those who are professionals and put cricket on top of the priority list. This then irritates you and makes you uncomfortable. But touchwood for me, I had a lot of activities to stay busy with.
“I spent a lot of time on the farm, worked closely with the workers. Was busy doing my activities and training. The friends I have spoken to, I was thanking God that I was in a safe place,” he revealed.
Talking about the fear that some people have with a couple of players testing positive for coronavirus, Shami cleared the air and said reports of fear or worry are a result of the media not being in the UAE and not witnessing the kind of energy the players are showing in training sessions.
“You guys are not here so you are not being able to see the training sessions. But one can see the hunger in the players. The intention to give their 100 per cent is visible. The players are giving their everything in training and nobody is willing to miss any activity. Everyone is looking really involved and the thing is that you are back to your real love (cricket). The guys have started to look in touch after the 5-6 days of training sessions that we have had and it looks like the boys want to give more than a 100 per cent on the ground,” he smiled.
And how is the pacer coping with the new rules like the saliva ban? Shami had no bones admitting that he sometimes forgets about it and the hand automatically reaches the mouth when the ball is in hand.
“What happens is that one is the natural way, in which we have played from childhood. That is our nature as we have done this all life. But now it is important to follow the guidelines given to us by the country (UAE) as well as ICC and the BCCI. Hurdles will come no doubt but this is also our family and we need to take care.
“What also happens is that sometimes we remember things a tad bit late like the ban on saliva. So the hand automatically goes to the mouth. But once the hand goes to the mouth, then one remembers that you cannot put saliva on the ball. You do struggle in between, but it isn’t impossible. You must enjoy yourself, but within the rules,” he pointed out.
New cricketing rules
Just like the new cricketing rules with an eye on the virus, fans are also set to be kept away from the tournament due to safety and Shami said while he will miss the fans, it is important for everyone that the fans stick to television this one time. But he is confident that the IPL will see a lot of smiling faces.
“Fans or players shouldn’t take it to heart as the rules have been made keeping in mind the health of the people. So, if we can go through this rule one year, the players and fans can once again reunite next season. We must remember that safety is paramount and if we are safe this year, we can all come back together again next year. Hats off to all the fans for constantly showing us support and love.
“Will definitely miss the fans and you cannot ignore that. But we will look to use this opportunity to divert the mind of the fans and give them joy. Even if it is on television, they will get to see their role models,” he said.
Another interesting aspect this year will be KL Rahul leading the Punjab unit and Shami said while the batsman is new to the leadership role, the maturity Rahul has shown over the years is testimony that he will do well in the cash-rich league. The pacer went on to add that he will also look to help Rahul by sharing his inputs with the bowlers.
“Be it IPL, domestic or international cricket, I always try to fulfil the role given to me. As for Rahul, I have spent quality time with him in the Indian dressing room and that is most important because at the end of the day what counts is mutual understanding.
“If the bonding is good, the result will show. He is mature and has played some quality knocks. He has a well-balanced team and has confidence. As a senior player one should take small responsibilities and help the captain relax. I will try to take the bowling unit forward so that Rahul doesn’t feel any pressure,” he signed off.