Fitter and smarter Shivam Mavi battles injuries, earns maiden India call-up

By, New Delhi
Dec 30, 2022 10:34 AM IST

After a year lost to injuries, UP bowler gets first India call-up following good shows in Mushtaq Ali, Vijay Hazare tournaments.

It was in January-February 2018 that Shivam Mavi’s skills as a fast bowler first became apparent to the cricket world. Part of the India junior team that won the U-19 World Cup under Prithvi Shaw in New Zea- land, Mavi turned heads alongside fellow pacer Kamlesh Nagarkoti for his ability to bowl over 140kmph, both finishing with nine wickets each in six matches. So impressed were those watching that there were calls to fast-track them into the senior team.

File photo of Shivam Mavi celebrating a wicket with ex-KKR teammates Dinesh Karthik and Kuldeep Yadav(PTI)
File photo of Shivam Mavi celebrating a wicket with ex-KKR teammates Dinesh Karthik and Kuldeep Yadav(PTI)

It’s taken almost five years, but Mavi is finally close to his dream of donning the senior India cap. The youngster from Noida in Uttar Pradesh has been called up to the India squad for the three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka starting January 3.

Titans come calling

While he has had lucrative IPL contracts in the intervening period — Gujarat Titans have picked him for 6 crore in the latest auction — the 24-year-old’s nascent career has seen its share of ups and downs already. The lows are largely to do with injury issues, a common factor in foiling the careers of many burgeoning pacers.

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, a stress fracture and another breakdown kept Mavi away from cricket for almost a year. It also forced him to cut down on his pace temporarily, but he now seems to be back on track. He took 14 wickets in seven matches in the Vijay Hazare Trophy this season, finishing as the 10th-highest wicket-taker. In Syed Mushtaq Ali T20, he claimed 10 wickets in seven games.

Learning experience

The setbacks have perhaps helped Mavi keep his feet firmly on the ground. He was playing a Ranji Trophy game against Baroda when he came to know of his India call-up. “He was focused on the match, showed no excitement,” said former India wicketkeeper Ajay Ratra, who is currently Uttar Pradesh’s head coach.

“Consistently hitting the right areas is his biggest strength. He can bowl on a particular spot for hours. He has a good stock delivery and a decent yorker. He has developed a good slower one too. He may not be a 150-plus bowler but can bowl close to 140 regularly. He can maintain accuracy without compromising on pace,” Ratra added.

Keeping injury free

Though Mavi’s talent has never been in question since his U-19 exploits, it would count for little if he cannot stay on the park

regularly. Following a strict regime now, Mavi will hope that the work he is putting in with a physio of the Uttar Pradesh Cricket Association (UPCA) helps him stay injury-free.

“UPCA deserves a lot of credit for managing his workload well. He is given a break whenever needed,” Ratra said. “There have been bowlers from UP in the past who have struggled with injuries. It was the same with Mavi. So, now we have a strict protocol for workload management. We monitor each session. The number of balls he should bowl before a particular match is predetermined keeping his body in mind.”

After an ordinary IPL season for Kolkata Knight Riders in 2022 when he was picked for 7.25cr—he just took five wickets in six matches at an economy of over 10—Mavi has also worked on adding variety.

Just raw pace, of course, doesn’t cut it in the IPL, where he featured for Kolkata Knight Riders for the first time in the 2018 edition when he was picked for 3cr. He had a rough start in his inaugural year, picking up just five wickets in nine matches at an expensive economy rate of 9.64. There was noticeable improvement over the next two seasons though. In 2020, he took nine wickets in eight games before bettering it in 2021 with 11 wickets in nine matches.

“He is very particular about his plans. If he feels he is in a good rhythm, he won’t bowl in the nets a day before the match. I still remember when we were shifting from the T20 format to one-dayers, he wanted to bowl more. ‘Sir, abhi toh dus over daalna hai. Chaar overs se nahi chalega (Sir I need to bowl 10 overs now. Four overs won’t do),’” Ratra said.

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    Aritra Mukherjee, who happens to be a journalist, is in an eternal relationship with food and sleep. He can, however, sacrifice both or at least the latter for his love-affair with cricket. 'He said,' 'he added,' 'he signed off' are some of his favourite phrases. When not juggling between food, sleep and cricket, he wastes time by surfing OTT platforms.

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