Cricket-COVID lockdown training base kept Shami sharp for World Cup comeback

(Reuters) – A home-made practice facility Mohammed Shami built just before COVID-19 lockdowns kept the India pace bowler sharp ahead of his successful World Cup comeback against New Zealand.

Shami claimed 5-54 in Dharamsala on Sunday to help the hosts to a four-wicket win and a 5-0 unbeaten record at the tournament.

In early-2020, Shami laid a pitch, nets and a clay running track at his farmhouse in Amroha, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, giving him and his younger brother, also a cricketer, a convenient practice base.

“I knew that there would be no scope to go anywhere so I thought it would be better to build that facility at the farmhouse,” Shami told reporters.

Shami was rested during India’s tour of West Indies in July and was dropped from the squad for September’s Asia Cup as all-rounder Hardik Pandya took on a more prominent role in the side after a year-long battle with a back injury.

Shami said he would rather be training at the home pitch than taking a break from the game.

“Sometimes it happens that when you are busy for 12 months, you get relaxed after going home,” said the 33-year-old.

“I feel that I don’t get relaxed after going home. I get more relaxed (training).

Shami replaced Pandya, who injured his left ankle during India’s seven-wicket win over Bangladesh last week.

Shami’s five-wicket haul included three in the final overs, helping restrict the Black Caps to 273 and earning him Player-of-the-Match.

Top of the standings, India next face defending champions England in Lucknow on Sunday.

Pandya will re-join the squad ahead of that match but it is not clear if he will be available for selection.

Shami said he had not minded sitting out India’s first four World Cup matches.

“I think everyone should enjoy each other’s success,” he said.

(Reporting by Chiranjit Ojha in Bengaluru; Editing by Robert Birsel)