I am back to my best: Shami

Napier: Mohammed Shami has emerged as a strong contender for a World Cup spot and the in-form India pacer on Wednesday attributed his successful ODI comeback to his stellar Test performances over the last 12 months.

Shami had earned a recall to the ODI squad in the home series against the West Indies in October. Following a brilliant run in the Tests and ODIs in Australia, he carried his form into the opening ODI in New Zealand, taking three wickets for 19 runs. The 28-year-old has overcome fitness and personal issues to give his best for India. “It has been a long journey. I played the 2015 World Cup, then got injured and it took me two years to recover. After the rehab, I made it to the 2016 World T20 squad. Then after a while, I got full confidence and felt like I was back on track,” said Shami after becoming the fastest Indian to 100 wickets in ODIs.

“I made a comeback after a long time and spent a good time at our rehab centre which is world class. The management and support staff have been really cooperative, as has been my captain (Virat Kohli) who has always encouraged me,” he said after a haul of 3/19 in six overs that fetched him the man of the match award in the first ODI against New Zealand.

Shami’s wicket number 100 was New Zealand opener Martin Guptill, who played onto his stumps a delivery that moved in after pitching on a good length. With his brilliant opening burst at McLean Park, the 28-year-old Shami continued his good showing in the limited overs format, having impressed in Australia prior to this five-match ODI series. Before Shami, Irfan Pathan reached the 100-wicket mark in 59 ODIs, while Zaheer Khan (65 matches), Ajit Agarkar (67) and Javagal Srinath (68) are the other Indian bowlers to complete a century of wickets in the quickest time.

“You saw in 2018, I played regular Test cricket. The confidence level is very high, I am bowling with the same speed that I used to earlier. Hope I can continue this,” he added. He was the second highest wicket-taker in the landmark Test series win against Australia with 16 scalps, only behind Jasprit Bumrah (21) and Nathan Lyon (21).

So, ahead of the three-match ODI series against Australia, his confidence was sky high. “I like Test cricket more than other formats. The way we have done in the last three-four series (as a bowling unit), it does your confidence a world of good. If the bowling unit is delivering, the pressure is divided and that helps you give your best,” he said.

He may have hit top form but Shami is not losing sleep over a World Cup berth. “I am not thinking too far ahead. It depends on my fitness and performance when the team is picked. As I said, we have the best bowling unit. They can pick anyone.” Talking about his man of the match-winning effort on Wednesday, Shami added: “It was a high-scoring pitch. Your line and length has got to be accurate. You have to be really disciplined, especially with the smaller grounds in New Zealand.” Shami has endured an injury-marred career and had even failed the ‘Yo-Yo’ fitness test last year.