Shami World Cup hat-trick is reward after Indian bowler's struggles

India's Mohammed Shami took a hat-trick against Afghanistan in their World Cup match in Southampton (AFP Photo/SAEED KHAN)

Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Mohammed Shami's World Cup hat-trick that sealed India's victory against Afghanistan was the ultimate reward for his hard work after a "long journey" back to full fitness.

The 28-year-old paceman has had to cope with weight issues, injury and a legal quarrel with his estranged wife.

In 2018, Shami's central contract was withheld because of allegations of domestic violence, although it was later reinstated.

He also struggled with injury that saw him spend nearly a year on the sidelines and led to weight gain.

A fit-again Shami, lean and hungry, was back in the mix for the one-day international series against the West Indies in October and has not looked back since.

"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's win on Saturday.

"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."

Shami, appearing in his first match of the tournament in place of injured paceman Bhuvneshwar Kumar, was handed the responsibility of bowling the final over of the tense game in Southampton.

Afghanistan needed 16 to win off to reach their target of 225 with three wickets in hand and Mohammad Nabi ratcheted up the nerves by hitting the first ball for four.

But Shami kept his nerve to bowl a dot delivery and then struck three times in three balls.

"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 returned figures of 4-40.

It was only the second Indian hat-trick in a World Cup game after paceman Chetan Sharma took one against New Zealand at the 1987 World Cup.

"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)."