Need a break: Mohammad Shami wanted out of the series with the West Indies

That Shami volunteered to ask for a rest is very interesting. According to his coach Badruddin Siddiq, Shami comes from the old school of fast bowling, which believes that the more you bowl, the better you get.

But timely rest is something even the great Australian Glenn McGrath advocates, especially for fast bowlers who play all three formats.

Every 12 months, I think you need a little break to regain your strength and form. So your body can withstand the stresses of fast bowling, because it’s not a natural thing. It’s up to the person themselves when they feel they need a break. And it depends on what length they want, what formats they want to play in, how they want to do it, McGrath, who is director of cricket at the MRF Pace Foundation in Chennai, told The Indian Express about the importance of rest for fast bowlers from time to time.

McGrath, who has played 124 Tests, 250 ODIs and T20Is in his illustrious career in which he won three World Cups, believes the off-season is an absolute necessity these days. While April-July was the off-season for India before the launch of the IPL in 2008, the tight international calendar means there is no such window even for players around the world. Australia and England have been pioneers in managing the workload; they have allowed their fast bowlers to choose formats, allowing them to take self-induced off-seasons, a period they spend recovering and building up their strength.

Shami, on the other hand, missed the New Zealand and Bangladesh tour that followed shortly thereafter after being named to the T20 World Cup squad at the last minute last November, and got a rest during the home season for an ODI against New Zealand and a third Test against Australia at Indore.

You will never make a fast bowler who never gets injured. Because that’s just the nature of the beast. You can bowl all you want, but if you’re not bowling, if you’re not recovering or if you don’t have an off-season or a period where you can build up your strength, your fitness, you can get injured no matter what. I don’t care who you are, because your strength just drains slowly and gradually. You have to maintain them during that season. But if you don’t do that, if you play 12 months a roday without rest and offseason, you’re going to get hurt sooner or later, McGrath added.

That Shami volunteered to rest also shows how much he has developed as a fast bowler who understands his body better than ever before.

Early last year while talking to this newspaper, he spoke of his general reluctance to take breaks, although he stressed the need for breaks to recover when necessary.

Who has the guts, who among the bowlers or batsmen has the sense to say he wants to sit out? No one even wants to get out of the game. Of course, there is what is called workload management. To some extent I agree with that, but sometimes I think there are downsides to it. I think that when you’re in good shape and in great rhythm, you shouldn’t stop playing. Sure, sometimes I feel like I need to take a break to recover. You have to do it wisely, Shami said. Obviously, after a busy season, he felt the need for such a smart break.

For a pacer who came into the sport very late, including playing red ball cricket, one of the concerns when Shami burst onto the scene was that he hadn’t gained much physicality like some of today’s pacers. But as his coach previously told this newspaper, Schami prefers to develop his strength the old school way: by dipping his feet in the sandboxes on his farm and running. Instead of going to the gym to build strength, he prefers to exercise the unorthodox way because it strengthens his legs.

That’s what Shami wants to do in the coming days before he heads to the National Cricket Academy. With the World Cup just 100 days away, India’s hopes of winning a second title at home depend on a pace attack in which Shami will be a key component along with Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bamrach. That’s why, despite a month-long break between the WTC finals and the first test at Domnicka, India has given Shami the rest he’s been waiting for.

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