NAGPUR: It’s a question the Indian team faces every now and then. Is Mohammed Shami fit? Not that the answer is always ‘no’, but it’s in the negative way too often. India’s premier pacer misses almost as many matches that he plays.
Bowlers the world over who ply this trade are prone to injuries. There is hardly anyone who doesn’t sit out because of this. Making Shami’s case different are the numbers. Since debut in November 2013, he has taken part in 26 of the 45 Tests India have played. Mostly, it has been due to lack of fitness. Count IPL, ODIs and domestic matches, his absence becomes glaring. Nothing was disclosed on behalf of the team Friday on why Shami is not playing this Test, other than a one-liner that “he has a niggle”. Given that in the past he has suffered from problems in the knee, sides and hamstring, this can mean any of those or something new.
A BCCI-certified physical trainer told Express that the bowler has a deep-rooted problem caused by improper guidance in the formative years. He knows how to bowl well, but isn’t as good when it comes to taking care of his body. “Bowlers like Shami have not been instructed properly in their formative years. So they lack awareness on progression of training, distribution of load and recovery. That’s why they are unable to sustain themselves for long at the top level. Their muscles are not trained that way. You can work on it, but it’s difficult to eliminate the possibility of breakdowns,” said the trainer, who didn’t want to be identified.
It surprised many last year when Shami played the first three Tests against England. As if to prove them right, the bowler missed the last two with a knee problem. He came back before the IPL and played domestic one-dayers, but did not play in the Champions Trophy. And if indications were good in Ranji Trophy before the Sri Lanka series, he is out again. “Problem is, Shami learned the basics of fitness after he grew up. If a student learns A, B, C, D in class VII, he will struggle with English in class X. His situation is similar. He is still learning. Naturally, the lesson isn’t complete because it started late. He doesn’t know much about, load management, rest and recovery,” said the trainer.
Because he can bowl above 140kmph and trouble batsmen, Shami will still be given time to get fit. But with new faces coming up and fitness non-negotiable, time is running out for one of India’s best pacers in recent times.