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Hat-trick hero Shami reveals long toil to regain fitness

Mohammed Shami achieved the first hat-trick of this World Cup to help India attain a narrow 11-run victory against bottom-ranked Afghanistan at the Rose Bowl.

Shami believed his hat-trick was a reward for all the hard work he has put in maintaining high fitness levels particularly after he had to deal with issues surrounding his weight.

In addition to injury woes, Shami's career was derailed by a turbulent relationship with his estranged wife that acquired a legal character since she approached courts accusing the paceman of domestic violence.

Amidst these troubles, his contract was suspended by the BCCI in 2018 before being reinstated later.

Injury concerns left Shami reeling on the sidelines leading to him gaining weight and becoming out of shape.

A visibly fit Shami returned to international cricket in October last year against the West Indies and since then has been in sensational form.

"This is a long journey, maybe around two years. Post-injury, I had put on weight and I could feel that," he said after India defeated Afghanistan.

"After one spell, I would feel tired and there would be tightness in my knee. I had a surgery too. At that point in time, I could sense that if I had to continue playing cricket, I'd better do something extra.

"I have cut down on my food, I follow a diet and people laugh about it when I tell them that. It's not strict but I avoid stuff doctors tell me to. I don't eat sweets or bread. It has helped me a lot."

'MS Dhoni advised me to bowl yorkers'

Shami received his first cap of the tournament after a hamstring strain ruled out first choice paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar from the clash against the Afghans.

He was handed the responsibility to bowl the final over in a tough chase with Afghanistan requiring 16 in pursuit of the target of 225 as the in-form Mohammad Nabi smashed a boundary on the first delivery to lift the minnows' hopes of pulling off a miraculous upset.

But Shami held his nerve to nail in three straight yorkers targetting the stumps as advised by MS Dhoni.

"There was no time to think, you just had to back yourself and your skills," he said. "I didn't want to try variations because that increases the chances of going for runs.

"MS Dhoni told me to keep bowling yorkers. He said 'don't change anything now, you can get a hat-trick'."

"Getting a chance in the playing XI is a bit of luck. As far as the hat-trick is concerned, it is a rarity at least in the World Cup," said Shami, who finished with impressive figures of 4-40.

Shami's hat-trick marks only the second instance an Indian bowler has dismissed three batsmen in consecutive deliveries at a World Cup as Chetan Sharma became the first one to do so in cricket's showpiece event back in 1987.

"Great bowling by Shami. After 31 years he joined me in the hat-trick club," Sharma said.

"He is one our best fast bowlers around and should have got the man-of-the-match award (which went to bowler Jasprit Bumrah, for his 2-39)."