Bowling coach Arun explains Shami’s resurgence, defends Dhoni’s slow batting
MS Dhoni and Mohammed Shami had pretty contrasting outings against Afghanistan. (AFP Image)

MANCHESTER: One year ago, Mohammed Shami wasn’t even in the ODI reckoning. Marred by personal issues and inconsistency, Shami was primarily a Test bowler, on a comeback trail after injury. During the last World Cup, Shami took 17 wickets to help India reach this semi-final, but after a turbulent 2018, which saw him lose out on a central contract, the World Cup in England seemed like a dream.

And yet here Shami is, learner, fitter and an integral part of the Indian team. With Jasprit Bumrah rested for the Australia and New Zealand ODIs earlier in 2019, Shami grabbed his opportunity and claimed 14 wickets from seven ODIs at an average of 20.64 and economy rate of 4.92, and more importantly, edged Khaleel Ahmed for a spot in the World Cup squad. ALSO READ: Semi-final in sight, India look to iron out middle-order chinks against West Indies

To add to his dream story, Shami, playing his first match of the biggest cricket tournament, picked up a match-winning hat-trick against Afghanistan which allowed India to avoid a scare. But Shami’s road to redemption wasn’t easy. After being embroiled in an ugly domestic case with his wife and injuries taking a toll, Shami was down and out. ALSO READ: Chris Gayle open to play India Tests and ODIs after World Cup

“It was a pretty long conversation. I can’t really bring that to the table here,” Bharat Arun, India’s bowling coach said about Shami. “But, yes, Shami was in a totally different mindset. And we had to – the head coach, me, all of us had to sit down and speak to him and kind of draw a future map for him and had to convince him regarding that. And he was going through certain personal problems as well at that point in time.

“So beyond all that, I think what has really got him into the situation that he is is his ability to play cricket and that’s exactly what we made him focus on. And I think the rest is there for everybody to see.”

If Shami was the star for India, claiming three wickets off the last three balls of the match to become only the second India bowler after Chetan Sharma to score a World Cup hat-trick, MS Dhoni, Shami’s first India captain, received flak for his slow batting. India’s famed middle-order failed to counter Afghanistan’s spinners and were restricted to a below-par 224/8 in 50 overs.

Dhoni (24 off 36 balls) and Kedar Jadhav (31 off 48) added 57 runs off 84 balls for the fifth wicket, thus slowing down the proceedings considerably in the middle overs. It was a strategy that was even questioned by former India batsman Sachin Tendulkar, but Arun came to the defence of the former India captain.

“Not really. I think according to the situation and the condition of the wicket, we were able to successfully defend the total that we put up. And had we probably lost a wicket at that stage, then things would have turned out differently. So I don’t think it’s too much of a concern for us right now,” Arun said.

“There is a constant dialogue between all the batsmen, the support staff, the batting coach, the head coach – Ravi Shastri has a constant dialogue with all the coaches. I can’t really get into the brass tacks of what we discuss, but yes if I have to answer your question, there is a constant dialogue for us to improve.

“If you look at our first three games, I think we put up some really big scores. And Afghanistan match, the wicket was a little sticky; it was tricky to bat under those circumstances. But I think it’s a question of adapting, understanding these conditions and adapting to that.”

Shami isn’t the only bowler who’s picked up pace under Arun. The emergence of Hardik Pandya as a fully capable ODI bowler has been well-documental, especially how he had a tendency to go for runs. In 2017, there were doubts whether Pandya would be able to bowl his full quota of 10 overs. But since, Pandya has evolved with the white balls. Against Afghanistan, Pandya finished with 2 for 51 from 10 overs while the services of Kedar Jadhav weren’t even required.

“Over a period time it was a big challenge for him to bowl those 10 overs, and he realised that to be able to bowl those 10 overs I need to develop a certain armoury in my bowling. And that’s what he’s worked on. He’s worked on his slow balls, his slow bounces also, and he’s also worked on perfecting his bounces. So all these put together have given him the confidence to go through those 10 overs,” Arun said.

India, unbeaten and with nine points are close to booking a place in the semi-final. A win against the West Indies, who nearly pulled off a spectacular win against New Zealand, will get them within striking distance of joining Australia in the final four, and for that Arun explains, their bowling plans are sorted.

“They’re an outstanding side and they play real positive cricket. We are aware of the challenges that exist in this game. And I think our plans are pretty much in place and we are up for the challenge,” Arun said.

“They do have their strengths. And it’s also a big challenge for the bowlers too – especially when they come after you. But whenever batsmen come after you, if you’re willing to look at it deeply, there is a chance for it – in it for the bowlers, and I think that’s what the bowlers would be looking to do.”