It took just one passing comment from the legendary Sourav Ganguly for Mohammed Shami from reaching 100kgs and to become the incisive wicket-taker that he is today.
Now hailed for his fitness, diet and strength, Mohammed Shami 2.0 is now the poster boy of discipline and transformation, earned through commitment, dedication and the will to succeed.
When the Kings XI Punjab pacer started off his cricketing career, it was his sheer talent that took him places - although not far enough. Little did he know that his weight was pulling him down.
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Early in his career, with opportunities of making it to the Uttar Pradesh junior state team hitting a snag, Shami made a last-ditch effort and moved across states to try his luck out in the Bengal cricket set up on the behest of his coach.
The move reaped rewards for young Shami as his efforts received plaudits and he quickly rose through the junior ranks and knocked on the door of a call-up to the Bengal Ranji Trophy team. He was invited to a training camp and had the opportunity of bowling in the nets to the some of the senior statesmen of the Bengal side and as luck would have it, he caught the eye of one stalwart in particular, the legendary Sourav Ganguly.
The former Indian cricket team skipper was instrumental in bringing through a core of talented young players that included the likes of Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh and MS Dhoni, who went on to have legendary careers in the sport. Ganguly has always had an eye for talent and after facing a fiery spell in the nets from a young Shami, 'Dada' was quick to tell management to take special care of the speedster.
Following that episode, Shami became a regular at the Bengal camp and formed a bond with Dada who took him under wing and nurtured him as a cricketer. Ganguly's influence has played a major role in moulding Shami into a seasoned pacer but one incident between the pair stands out the most for the UP native.
"We were playing together in a Vijay Hazare Trophy game and I had just taken a wicket," recalls Shami. "So, we were standing around and having refreshments when Dada came up to me and told me, 'You are a fast bowler, right? Then why do I see a flabby tummy?' I was left speechless."
While the interaction was a bit tongue-in-cheek, it motivated Shami to work harder on his fitness. "I took fitness seriously following that interaction. I struggled a bit with injuries, and I ballooned up to 93kgs. But I took it in stride, educated myself about fitness and diet and dropped 20-odd kilos in a matter of months. The results are evident. I have been virtually injury-free for the past couple of years," he explained ot KXIP.in.
Ganguly revolutionized the fitness spectrum of Indian cricket and brought about a youth revolution during his stint as the captain and towards the tail end of his glorious career, he set another talented youngster on the right path to succeed in the sport.