‘Shivam Mavi is a Perfect Package… Saare Format Khelega: Coach Phoolchand Sharma

Workload management has become a fancy and very used term in Indian cricket right now. With numbers of injuries rising by the day, the players have become more cautious about the load on their bodies and have been often found taking rests between formats and series. For the younger crop of players, the rest period of seniors has opened up opportunities at the highest level and one such came seamer Shivam Mavi’s way in the recently concluded three-T20I series vs Sri Lanka.

The 24-year-old was picked in the XI for all three fixtures and made an instant impact with 4/22 in the series opener and a brisk 26-run cameo in the 2nd match of the series. The selectors were clearly impressed with what they saw and retained him in the squad for the upcoming three-match T20I series vs New Zealand. While most players would have used the break between two series to focus on rest and recovery, Mavi travelled from Rajkot to Meerut and turned up for Uttar Pradesh in the Ranji Trophy contest against Odisha on January 17. He picked up three wickets in the game and bowled as many as 42 overs in the drawn contest. Mavi’s childhood coach Phoolchand Sharma feels these are the qualities which set the speedster apart and make him a perfect package.

“Shivam Mavi is a perfect package. I have seen many bowlers rise the ladder during my coaching career but the qualities of Mavi stand out. I haven’t seen that skill set. Besides being a good bowler, he is a good batsman and an exceptional fielder who can field at covers, slips and deep. And everyone saw how he batted in the second T20I with Axar Patel. Wo lambi race ka ghoda hai and saare format khelega… (Mavi is the horse for the long journey and will play all formats). I hope he plays Test cricket in the next 1-2 years,” Phoolchand tells News18 Cricketnext in an exclusive conversation.

It wasn’t a smooth sail for Mavi early on as the seamer, after setting the speed guns on fire during the 2018 edition of the U-19 World Cup, was in and out of action due to injuries. Yes, he was part of the KKR unit from 2018 to 2022 but didn’t get much game time primarily due to bouts with injuries. The 2022-23 season, however, saw a fitter Mavi in the middle as he featured for Uttar Pradesh in all three formats and kept picking wickets.

“The more a player plays, the more he understands his body. And also understands workout, rest and recovery. In younger days, there is a different level of enthusiasm so all these things take a backseat. Moreover, in senior cricket, the coaches, physios and trainers are of high quality. A player gets a program/workout schedule from them. So that helps,” says Phoolchand.

‘KKR supported a lot’

The year 2022 also saw him being released by KKR ahead of the mini-auction and the seamer went Gujarat Titans’ way after the defending champions’ bid of Rs 6 crore. Mavi was mostly on the bench or doing rehab during his time with KKR and Phoolchand feels the franchise didn’t let the youngster fall and took very good care of him during those four years.

“When KKR bid for him for the first time after the U-19 World Cup to this Gujarat Titans bid, my reaction was the same both times. Even then teams were pressed for budget and didn’t have much to spend. It was a big bid even then. He was released this year by KKR and we saw that not many teams have big purse so I was expecting a bid under Rs 4 crore. So didn’t expect him to go for 6 crores. I would take this opportunity to thank KKR too because they supported him a lot during his injury days and took care of him. Unhone use girne nahi diya (they didn’t let him fall),” says Phoolchand.

From Delhi to India, via UP

Mavi’s journey didn’t start from UP as the seamer first played for Delhi U-14 back in 2011. The switch to UP happened the next year as Mavi didn’t find a place in the U-16 probables and Phoolchand took the tough call of taking him to Uttar Pradesh where he played all his cricket after that.

I still remember that date (when he was picked for Delhi U-14). It was September 3, 2011, when the team was declared at Feroz Shah Kotla at 8 PM. I took him from here around 10 PM and he was supposed to fly out to Jammu & Kashmir for the tournament the next morning. His career started in Delhi, he made the state win the final match by picking the most wickets but wasn’t even considered for the U-16 camp the next year. I was very disappointed so took him to Uttar Pradesh where he got the chance and has never looked back since then,” recalls Phoolchand.

‘Childhood spent with fast bowlers’

Phoolchand, who runs the Wonders Cricket Club in the NCR, had a good lineup of fast bowlers in his club as the likes of Anureet Singh, Parvinder Awana, and Sudeep Tyagi would train with him. A Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Suresh Raina would too drop in during the off-season and sessions were always high on intensity and quality. The club cricket and training with quality bowlers during his younger days hardened Mavi for the road ahead.

“I always had a battery of fast bowlers in my club. Anureet Singh, Parvinder Awana, Sudeep Tyagi & others. His childhood was spent amongst those players. I made him play a lot of different tournaments and no cricket is bigger than Delhi NCR. The quality of tournaments here is phenomenal. He did well wherever he played. Who slowly started baking (he slowly transformed into a proper player),” says Phoolchand.

Recalling Mavi’s younger days, Phoolchand shares a very interesting story of the then 14-year-old who rattled Nepal, in Nepal, and assured the coach that he has what it takes to excel at the highest level.

“I still remember an incident from his early days where Nepal, after qualifying for the World Cup, had invited a few teams for a preparatory tournament. Our club Wonders Club was also invited for that tournament also featuring Nepal, a team from Holland and Pakistan. Mavi was only 14 then and I played him against Nepal in the opening match of the tournament. He picked four wickets in that game and we beat Nepal in Nepal. That day I knew he has the spark and he will play at the highest level,” says Phoolchand.

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