India coach Ravi Shastri heaped praise on pacer Mohammad Shami following his player-of-the-series display to lead the visitors’s to a 4-1 win over New Zealand in the five-match One-Day International series.
A year ago, Shami failed the yo-yo fitness test but bounced back in style with his bowling coming for high praise during India’s overseas tours since the start of 2018.
“If there is one man I have to single out over the last five months or so, it’s Mohammad Shami,” Shastri told broadcasters Star Sports after his side defeated the Kiwis by 35 runs in Wellington.
“He got a kick up the backside after failing the yo-yo test. He went back, did the hard yards, came back fit and has not broken down since. He has been outstanding, that too across all formats.
“In the morning, he was telling [bowling coach] Bharat Arun that Anderson’s seam position is like this....another bowler’s is like that. Arun told him ‘look at your seam presentation. People around the world are taking notice of you, and don’t try to imitate anyone’,” Shastri said.
Hardik Pandya, who made a successful return to the team following his brief suspension, was also lauded for his performance. The all-rounder smashed a quick-fire 45 before picking up a couple of wickets with the ball. The rescue act, though, was kick-started by Ambati Rayudu’s 90, rescuing his side from a precarious 18/4.
“Hardik is a natural talent and a match-winner,” Shastri said. “Those 20-30 runs with the bat made the difference.
“Rayudu played really well today. This was the toughest of all the five matches. From 18/4 to going on to win the game. He batted like a millionaire in the last game and he was told that. The way he came out to today was commendable.”
As for the road to the World Cup in June, the 56-year-old said that there are still places up for grabs. He, however, hinted at resting some of India’s senior players for the Australia ODI series at home.
“There would still be one or two places we would be looking at. In general, the team picks itself,” he said. “What you want is the team not losing form with five games to go for the World Cup. You, in fact, should grab every opportunity you get and make the most of it.
“Now, Shami would need a break – he has had a long season. Shikhar [Dhawan], Rohit [Sharma] could get a break as well.”
India’s first-choice top-three of Sharma, Dhawan, and Kohli have been imperious with the bat. The coach warned that the law of averages would catch up with his team at some point.
“You are bound to lose a couple of wickets,” Shastri said, when asked about India’s top-order collapse in the final ODI. “There could be days like the last two [matches], where you lose your top order early. Respect the conditions, see off the new ball; see off Trent Boult’s early spell. Look at Vijay Shankar...he came across as a guy with very good temperament.”
India now play New Zealand in a three-match Twenty20 series.