Indian pacer Mohammad Shami, who won the Player of the Match for his 7/57 in the first semi final against New Zealand in the ongoing World Cup, is the best bowling analysis by an Indian in ODIs going past Stuart Binny's 6/4 against Bangladesh at Dhaka from 2014. He now has four five-wicket hauls in World Cups the most for any bowler. Three of them have come this year. He is the fastest to 50 wickets in World Cups getting there in 17 innings.
Team India pacer Mohammed Shami’s journey from a challenging phase of fitness struggles to being hailed as the "lean mean pace machine" is a testament to his commitment to the roots of his training. His childhood coach, Badruddin Siddiqui, affectionately known as Badri bhai, encapsulated Shami’s transformation in a TV interview a couple of years back, stating, "The Shami you’re seeing now is a new product. Gym toh sablog karte hai but Shami didn’t do that. He followed a desi fitness training to get back into shape and therein has continued the regime. He has been running religiously in his own farm house in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh. He has made a ground in his farm house and whenever he is there, it has been his routine to run barefoot."
"I need to run like a horse to be successful," bowler Mohammad Shami once said.
"Yes, he has been running like a horse in his own farm house here in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh," his personal coach Badruddin Siddiqui said in an exclusive chat with Deccan Chronicle. "He has made a ground in his farm house and whenever he is here, it has been his routine to run barefoot. He also invites other young boys to run with him and that’s his new way of training. In modern days, the cricketers prefer to visit the gym and do weight lifting exercises, whereas Shami trains in his farm house. We call it a ‘desi training’, the coach added.
Nothing glamorous about it but the results are amazing.
Unlike many of his peers, Shami opted for what can only be described as ‘desi training’ — a term that finds resonance with Suheim Sheikh, a sailing coach, and founder of YCH Sports Foundation. And without doubt the desi style of staying fit has added to his strength and prowess on the field.
Sheikh emphasises the importance of understanding inter-muscle dependency in training, echoing Shami’s unconventional path. He notes, "I trained most of my sailing career free-standing, but these days the tech and theory are of a very high level. Unless you learn about inter-muscle dependency based on your sport, you may end up with very strong-looking muscles but not entirely effective."
Not for everybody
Shami’s fitness regime, doing rounds on social media, including sprinting alongside his loyal companion Jack on his agricultural land in UP, aligns with the sentiments of Mohammed Muneer Uddin, a golf fitness specialist, and national coach. Uddin remarks, "Shami is training the orthodox way. But that works for some people, not for everybody. Those used to city living and sweating it out in well-equipped gyms can’t stay for a minute without shoes. Nothing wrong with that; one needs to understand his/her body and not be rough on it. Desi boys can practice the desi way, but city boys need to be cautious." This insight adds a layer of understanding to Shami’s fitness way, acknowledging that while it may not be universally applicable, it is undeniably effective for those rooted in it.
Adding to Shami’s fitness is his ‘desi diet’ — home-made, clean, and simple, with no junk food. This dietary approach is not only followed by sportspersons but also by those who believe in healthy living.
Gives that extra edge
Dr Irfan Khan, a Neuromus-cular and Sports physiotherapist, adds valuable insights to Shami’s approach, stating, "I believe desi exercise always has an extra edge over fitness training and exercises in a gym. Shami style exercise regime always gets more endurance and more strength which lasts long. Running in fields and open grounds boosts immunity and agility. The uneven surfaces in a field train various joints and muscles better than a synthetic floor with shoes. The joints and muscles adapt to all kinds of stresses and strains at various angles and get ready for extreme athletic abilities. This training also enhances the mindset of the athlete when he/she overcomes natural physical challenges. A muscle is a trainable tissue, the more variable stimuli given, the better it performs. We are very lucky to have such an environmental advantage in India. Running and exercising in hot sun, rains, muddy fields, cold mornings coupled with a good diet alters the mechanical ability of muscles and the athlete."
However, Dr. Irfan points out the cons, stating, "No exercise regime is injury-free; desi exercises when overdone can cause back and knee issues, but these athletes overcome these hurdles faster and better."
The right training matters
However, Deckline Leitao, who is a renowned sports conditioning and fitness specialist, believes no such thing as desi or videshi fitness training. Correct training helps a player improve his fitness for the correct sport and incorrect training overtrains them and gets them injured.
"If he was injured earlier and is now able to bowl again then physiotherapy rehabilitation and fitness can be given credit. If his bowling speed has increased then again his power can be given credit. Now that Mohd. Shami has bowled well there are going to be claims about his training ‘secrets’ in videos, magazines, websites, etc which by the way he himself might not even be aware of," said Deckline Leitao.
"It is common for fans and followers to think that there is some secret recipe behind great performances. Truth is that sometimes matches go amazing while sometimes it’s not your day even with the best technical coach, fitness, counselling, nutrition, etc. This is especially true in sports like cricket which depend on many variables such as the pitch, opposite team, weather, decisions, etc.
Therefore, rather than trying to find desi or videshi reasons for their favourite players performances fans should rather remember to support players when they sometimes perform badly as well because that is when most support is needed," Leitao signed off.
Desi training is challenging
Badminton player Sai Praneeth, adds a valuable perspective, "When I was young, I did run on the road but never barefoot." Praneeth acknowledges the benefits of desi fitness but emphasises its challenges, stating, "Definitely, that style of fitness is good, but I think everybody can’t do that. Once you have a facility and get used to it, then I think it’s tough to follow a desi style. You can include a few things, maybe like barefoot running, but it may lead to an injury if you are not used to it. However, to add the desi touch, running and push-ups can be included in one’s regular regime, and of course, a total desi or homemade diet."
Praneeth also touches upon the genetic aspect, highlighting, "I think genes also matter because for a few people, they don’t train much, but they are still strong."
"Definitely, that style of fitness is good, but I think everybody can’t do that. Once you have a facility and get used to it, then I think it’s tough to follow a desi style." — Sai Praneeth
Everybody is different
Every person’s journey is unique in terms of their physical fitness. It is obviously great for all of us and the whole country that Mohammed Shami found his fitness formula. So, you just need to understand your body. — Sania Mirza, former Tennis player
Shami understood what suits him
Shami has proven that his training routine is unique and has benefitted him immensely. But one programme does not suit all. He has understood what suits him the best and embarked on it successfully. Shami had done his sessions in his village doing the basics right with his own training methods. Running on the tilled land, bare foot, sand running etc., had made him lethal." — Ramji Srinivasan, has worked with the Indian team in the past