One of team India's leading pacers Mohammed Shami has had his share of ups and downs in his career in which he went through a life-threatening knee injury and the domestic violence allegations that have not only affected his personal life but he also went into depression and had suicidal thoughts. However, even after all this, he has always been able to bounce back and doing great things for Indian cricket.
Now, the 29-years old opens up about the importance of mental health awareness, support from his family and teammates, the COVID-19 effect on his village, and bowling with Jasprit Bumrah in an exclusive interview with Hindustan Times.
How have you coped with absolutely no cricket in the last three months?
Well, I have been staying at my home in Sahaspur village in Amroha the entire time. I have constructed a small academy where I have been training. My younger brother Mohammed Kaif, who is also a fast bowler like me and plays in the Bengal U-23 team, also trains with me. I have taken the fitness schedules from the team physio and doing everything I can to attain fitness standards international cricket demands. I have been lucky that way that I had my own ground to keep myself fit.
You recently mentioned contemplating suicide when you were going through a difficult phase in your domestic life. Can you take us through that phase? How did you deal with it?
Depression is a problem that needs attention. It was unfortunate to see such a brilliant actor like Sushant Singh Rajput lose his life. He was a friend and I wish I could talk to him had I known about his mental condition. In my case, my family pulled me out of that low phase. They took care of me and made me realize that I needed to fight back. There were times I felt suicidal but my family ensured I was never alone. Someone or the other would always be around, talking to me. Spirituality also helps you seek answers. Talking to your close ones or counseling is the best way out.
How difficult is it to deal with mental demons while performing at the top level? How did the team support you during that phase?
Mental pressure definitely interferes with your physical wellbeing. At the same time, if you seek help from others and talk about it, you can get rid of such issues off the field. I was lucky to have the team’s support staff along with Virat Kohli and other players backing me. We are like a family. My teammates always insisted I vent my anger and frustration out on the field. I am happy that phase is over.
Tell us about your village. How has the pandemic affected it?
Around 5000 people live here. And they were struggling to make a living during the lockdown. My family and I tried to help them as much as we could. We have been providing food to the poor. I think that’s the least humanity we can show in these troubled times. My grandfather (Mohammed Anis) and my father (Mohammed Taufeeq) have a legacy in this village. Our family has always served the people.
How has it been bowling alongside Jasprit Bumrah in different formats?
I am lucky to have Bumrah bowling from the other end. His accuracy and pace are just spot on. We talk a lot off the field and on the field too. We understand each other’s strengths and adjust well according to the conditions. Bowling alongside him actually works quite well for me. When the batsmen are trying to negate his pace, I come into the bowl and surprise them with my swing. Bumrah is a tremendous bowler and I learn a lot from him.
Irrespective of the format, you almost always raise your game when needed. How do you do that?
The aim is to keep calm and just focus on bowling a correct line and length. When you do so and not take extra pressure, results come automatically. Test cricket is the most challenging. When you take wickets on the fourth or the fifth day for your team, the feeling is amazing.
India will play a Test series in Australia in December. How are you planning for it?
I don’t plan much for the future. I had a great Test series against Australia back in 2018-19. I enjoy bowling on Australian pitches and putting pressure on the batsmen. We will have to see what kind of pitches are prepared and then plan accordingly.