PUNE: “Ek kaafi nahi hai. Paanch le. (One isn’t enough. Take five).”
This was what Mohammed Shami heard as soon as he walked into the dressing room at YS Rajasekhara Reddy ACA-VDCA Stadium on Sunday, around half an hour into the day’s play. He’d removed Temba Bavuma in his second over and was back after one more, hoping to get a good word or two. Those words fired him up even more.
It isn’t the first time that India — most notably head coach Ravi Shastri and bowling coach Bharathi Arun — have employed such a tactic. In an earlier interaction with this newspaper, Arun had revealed how Shami — who has the tendency of blowing hot and cold — has to be riled up to be at his best. It worked for them in Johannesburg and Perth. Visakhapatnam played out on the same lines.
But behind that match-winning spell in Visakhapatnam lies a tale of how good India are when it comes to managing their resources. So much so that they’d pack their pacers in bubble-wrap if they could.
India understand very well the need of a well-oiled pace battery; one that is key to them to hang on to their
No 1 rank and dominance at home. As Shami returned after bowling only a three-over spell – Virat Kohli leaves it to bowlers to decide that – he took a quick ice-bath. ICC permits players to stay off the field for 10 minutes, without any riders.
Constantly dealing with hot, humid conditions, India employ different methods to keep their bowlers ready. Ice-baths are one. Players stay in a tub that is maintained at 8 to 15 degree Celsius, depending on conditions. Intense efforts result in the build-up of lactic acid in their bodies, which affects muscles and causes fatigue. An ice-bath constricts blood vessels and jump-starts muscle-healing, draining out lactic acid in the process.
At that stage on Sunday, Shami was exhausted. India had the momentum, and they needed the pacer to build on it.While he was in the tub, the management kept his clothes dry and ready to wear. The pacer returned soon after and resumed bowling immediately. In a similar short burst, he removed Faf du Plessis and Quinton de Kock in successive overs, rattling South Africa. It was a ploy India followed in the second session as well. Shami came back to take the remaining wickets, ending with figures of 5/35.
Speaking of five, Shami was given this target only on the morning of the final day. Shastri had a hunch that pacers — not spinners — would call the shots then. He is understood to have even drawn parallels to India-England Test in 1981. It was the pacers Kapil Dev and Madan Lal that bowled them to victory in Mumbai instead of spinners, who were expected to call the shots. R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were being seen as the likely heroes in Visakhapatnam, and we all know who ended that game.
As he was getting ready to go back on the field on that Sunday, a fired-up Shami said, “Aur kitne chahiye? (How many do you need?)”