Kolkata: Indian team’s premier speedster Mohammed Shami became emotional while talking about his daughter Aira, who stays with his estranged wife Hasin Jahan.
“I could not meet her during the lockdown. She is growing up fast. I miss her a lot,” he said.
While talking about the upcoming IPL, he said that it is the right kind of tournament that allows players to get into the groove nicely, an absolute must before they hit the Australian shores for two and half months.
The Australia-bound India players will fly directly after the IPL concludes on November 10 for the much-anticipated tour which is likely to begin with a T20 series followed by four Tests and ODIs.
“It would be great that the Australia-bound players are playing IPL. It will set the body and momentum perfectly by then,” the Kings XI pace spearhead told PTI in an exclusive interaction.
India under Virat Kohli achieved the historic feat of winning in Australia for the first time in 2018-19 but the hosts did not have Steve Smith and David Warner back then because of their involvement in the ball tampering scandal.
The duo’s presence would make the series even more exciting and Shami said everyone is focused on the tour as well.
“I feel it’s better that we are playing IPL before a big series. Apart from IPL, everyone is also focused on that tour (Down Under). There is a lot of talk about that series. We will have a good contest.”
With the IPL shifted to the UAE, the tournament will be held across three venues of Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, comprising 60 matches spread over 53 days.
Shami feels unlike in India where they have to fly all over the country for away matches, the IPL in UAE would be less hectic this time.
“Yes, there’re back to back matches, training, travelling that’s a bit of headache. But it’s a short format, short matches, physically there should not be any workload issue. This time, there won’t be much travelling. You will have to travel just about two hours by bus (when there is a match in Abu Dhabi).”
With R Ashwin joining Delhi Capitals, Kings XI’s bowling responsibility will be shouldered by the seasoned Indian pacer and Shami said he’s up to the challenge and would look to take the key wickets of their opponents.
“I always try to stand up to the role and give my 100 per cent. I will bowl as per the situation depends…
“Obviously being the strike bowler, it’s important to take the key wickets it gives a big relief to the team,” the seasoned pro, with 49 Tests, 77 ODIs and 11 T20Is under his belt, said.
This time, Kings XI have appointed Anil Kumble as the director of cricket operations as the former India head coach.
“I’ve a great bonding with him. It’s very important to have a good bonding with the coach, you can explain things clearly and it’s all about having a clear understanding.”
Asked about spin legend Shane Warne’s suggestion of giving a maximum five overs to a bowler in T20s instead of the current four, the veteran pacer didn’t endorse the idea.
“We are used to the current set of rules. I don’t think it will make any difference. The format is always heavily stacked up against the bowlers.”
KXIP have been perennial underachievers and barring two seasons — 2008 and 2014 — they have failed to make the playoffs and finished last thrice (2010, 2015 and 2016).
Shami however said that any team should discount KXIP at its own peril.
“You cannot underestimate any team in this format. It’s been our bad luck that we have not been able to lift the trophy yet. We had a great start last season. T20 format is all about execution. Our stroke of luck can change any moment.”
Training during lockdown
Shami was training at his farmhouse during the lockdown and after a practice match on Thursday he feels everyone is regaining their rhythm.
“It’s been a long time since we played cricket. Everyone is happy like kids in candy store after getting back to the sport they love the most. We had a practice match on Thursday, I didn’t face any issues. Everyone is getting back to rhythm. I didn’t feel much difference (as I was bowling at my farmhouse).”
With the IPL being staged at a time when the country is in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Shami said it’s the cricketers responsibility to bring smiles back on the faces of fans.
“It feels great when people cheer us from the stadium, but in the current scenario when that is not possible, it’s our responsibility to cheer them up, people who are battling a difficult time.
“We can at least do that to our fans. For one season, we can play without the crowd, I don’t think there would be any issue.”
Shami further remembered the lockdown months, serving to the poor migrants near his house in Sahaspur, Uttar Pradesh by setting up food distribution centres with the help of his friend Umesh.
“For me, it never felt like a lockdown; it just flew away. We were busy since morning arranging food, running six kitchens and in the evening I was back at practice. I am really thankful to the administration and people who helped us,” he said.