On October 31, 1987, an Indian player touched a feat no other in the world had achieved in a cricket world cup yet. In the side's final group stage game against New Zealand, he struck the stumps on three consecutive deliveries, becoming the first man on earth to take a hattrick in cricket’s premier tournament. 32 years later, he finally has another Indian for company in the coveted list of players who have achieved the rare feat. And to say he’s delighted would be an understatement.
Chetan Sharma remained the sole player from India to have taken a hattrick in the six World Cups which have succeeded the feat so far. On Saturday, Mohammed Shami broke the deadlock last night, taking out Mohammad Nabi, Aftab Alam and Mujeeb Ur Rahman in the final over of the game to lead India to a 11-run win over Afghanistan in a thrilling contest.
In an exclusive interview with India TV, the veteran Indian cricketer expressed his joy at Shami’s hattrick, which guided India to victory.
“I could only imagine how the reaction would’ve been when I took the first hattrick in 1987. Even I was jumping on my seat when Shami took the hattrick last night!” Chetan Sharma said.
“It always feels good when an Indian goes into the record books. It makes you feel proud. I’d like to congratulate him for the achievement.”
India have traditionally been known for their batting prowess, but the rise of the side’s bowling unit in the past four years has been phenomenal. While Chetan Sharma believes that hattrick in any game, let alone in a World Cup, is more of a ‘chance’, he stressed that the feat is aided by healthy competition in team India’s bowlers - a direct result of higher quality in the bowling lineup.
“It’s (hattrick) more of a chance. You don’t plan it.
“But there’s a very healthy competition in the field. I was pinning my hopes on Mohammed Shami to be the spearhead of Indian bowling attack alongside Bumrah, but the team management chose Bhuvneshwar Kumar.
“Bhuvneshwar knew that he could be out if he didn’t perform. And when he suffered from an injury, Shami realized that he had to step up.
“When there’s a healthy competition, you’ve to prove yourself whenever you get the chance. You’ve no other option.”
Chetan Sharma insisted that the team management had a huge role to play in the rapid rise of the Indian bowling attack. The overhaul in the side, led primarily by captain Virat Kohli who brought about a fitness revolution in the team, was necessary, and may even guide India to World Cup glory, according to Chetan Sharma.
“I’ll credit the team management for their handling of the bowlers. All – the bowling coach, the team coach and the captain have played an excellent role. Even the selectors. I’ve seen many selectors in my life, but the current group places more emphasis on the bowlers.
“I’ve been saying this for long - if you have to be the World Champion, it’s your bowlers who have to step up. We would’ve lost this game 6-7 years ago. Either you credit Afghanistan’s bowlers, or you say that the batsmen didn’t step up, but, in any case, it's the bowlers who efficiently did the job in the end. And it has only happened because you now have a good unit.”
“India has a better chance than anyone at winning the World Cup because of their bowlers.”
The 2019 World Cup campaign has been excellent for India so far, as the side is one of the only two (with New Zealand) to remain unbeaten.
Mohammed Shami revealed after the game last night that it was MS Dhoni who told him to bowl the yorker before the hattrick ball. Chetan Sharma lauded Shami’s accuracy, and further, put weight on Dhoni’s advice.
“In my time, Kapil paaji [Kapil Dev] came to talk to me for a good 2-3 minutes. He told me to bowl wicket-to-wicket and not depend on slips.
"You have the best opportunity to get the batsman out if you bowl straight. If you don’t bowl on the wickets, you’re depending on chance."
Shami’s career trajectory through the last year has been rather eventful. He failed a fitness test, faced turmoil in his personal life, but made a strong comeback in both the formats of the game. India’s fitness coach Shankar Basu earlier revealed that Shami overcame his bad eating habits and remained thoroughly dedicated to achieving full fitness during his time outside the playing field.
Chetan Sharma also credits Shami’s brilliant return to his commitment to fitness.
“It all depends on fitness. If you don’t run with rhythm, you can never be a good bowler,” Chetan Sharma said. “He is an improved bowler altogether. He isn’t consistently focusing on his fitness issues, which allows him to extensively concentrate on his bowling.
“Nowadays, even when a player is 90% fit, he’s ready to play because he fears for his place. But it’s quite dangerous because you risk further injuries, in addition to the fact that you’re not giving your 100%.
“Shami gave proper time to his fitness after his failure in the YoYo test, and has probably extended his career as well.
“Now, who knows if Shami retains his place in the side even if Bhuvneshwar [Kumar] returns to fitness.”
Shami’s pace-partner Jasprit Bumrah played a crucial role in the game against Afghanistan yesterday. In addition to taking two wickets in a single over to break a dangerous looking partnership between Rahmat Shah and Hashmatullah Shahidi, Bumrah conceded only five runs in the 49th over to ease the pressure off Mohammed Shami.
Chetan Sharma, however, believes that it was a collective effort from the side which aided Shami in delivering the killer blow.
“It’s a team effort. If I talk about my own hattrick, New Zealand were five wickets down when I took the hattrick. Their top batsman, Martin Crowe was already in the pavilion, which increased the pressure on them.
“If Crowe had stayed, maybe I wouldn’t have had my name in the record list.
“Similarly, Bumrah, Chahal, Hardik.. all played a crucial role yesterday. It isn’t individual."