India skipper Virat Kohli lavished praise on pacer Mohammad Shami’s fitness after the visitors cruised to an eight-wicket win over New Zealand at Napier on Wednesday.
Shami picked up figures of 3/19 in the first One-day International and became the fastest Indian bowler to reach 100 wickets in the format. A year ago, the 28-year-old suffered a period of turmoil on and off the field, failing the ‘Yo-Yo’ fitness test and was troubled by allegations of domestic violence by his wife.
But putting those troubles behind him, Shami reached the 100-wicket mark in his 56th game. On Wednesday, he dismissed openers Martin Guptill and Colin Munro in the six overs he bowled, picking up the player of the match award.
“The fast bowling group together believes they can knock any side over,” Kohli said, after his side cantered to an easy win to go 1-0 up in the five-match series. “And the belief in his [Shami’s] own ability and his fitness – this is the fittest I’ve seen him in his career. And his Test form has translated into one-day cricket,” he added.
Shami’s comeback started in Australia, where he picked up 16 wickets in the Test series. Speaking about India’s win, Kohli said he was pleased with his side’s all-round effort.
“It was one of our more balanced performances in the last few games. When I lost the toss, I thought it was going to be 300 par. 150-odd on that wicket was superb,” Kohli said.
For India, wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav was the most successful bowler, returning with figures of 4/39 in 10 overs while Yuzvendra Chahal and Kedar Jadhav shared three wickets between them.
“The pitch got slower in the second half of the innings but in the first half, the spinners bowled well, cramped the batsmen and they still made it difficult despite the dimensions of the field,” Kohli said.
The skipper also praised opener Shikhar Dhawan, who was unbeaten on 75 in the 156-run chase. “[It was a] really important innings for Shikhar and we spoke during the sun break that he needed to finish the game to get some momentum. He is a dangerous player when in rhythm,” Kohli said.
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson admitted that his team put up a below-par display. “It wasn’t our best effort. We expected India to be good and they were very good. We just had to get through the slower balls but I do think their lengths were immaculate,” he said.
“Obviously 150 on the board on a surface where 250 was par was hard. It was lack of adjusting to the surface. All the Indian bowlers contributed but we do need to be better,” he added. “I do think our energy in the field and with the ball was good though and we need to move on from this game quickly.”