Former Proteas fast bowler Fanie de Villiers on Saturday (January 20) lauded Indian pacer Mohammed Shami for exceeding the expectations of everyone in the ongoing Test series against South Africa.
Even though the world No. 1 Test side have conceded an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series, Shami has impressed one all with his awe-inspiring showing in the second Test particularly.
Owing to the combination of lively pace and top-class swing bowling, Shami has managed to scalp 9 wickets at an incredible average of 20.22 in the two Tests thus far.
No wonder, Fanie de Villiers feels that Shami could easily fit in the highly-competitive pace attack of South Africa. "Shami is a good bowler. He could play for South Africa and fit into their pace attack very well," de Villiers was quoted by PTI.
"He has a beautiful out-swinger, runs in hard, bowls at 140s, and most importantly, he consistently bowls that line to first slip. He bowls the line Glenn McGrath did, Shaun Pollock did, Ian Botham did, Dale Steyn does, and so, he is India's best Test bowler," he further said.
Fanie also pointed out that all-rounder Hardik Pandya can become a wicket-taker like Shami if he manages to add some pace in his armoury.
"When you are bowling in South Africa, it is important to have that away-swinging line. Shami has that. Hardik Pandya has that too, but he doesn't have too much pace. Until he gets that pace he will not be a big wicket-taker.
"He will fit into India's overseas plans very well though, because he bowls that away-swinging line. Bhuvneshwar Kumar also has that, but he didn't play in Centurion," he opined.
Bhuvneshwar, who scalped a 6-wicket haul besides scoring 25 and 13* in the two innings of Cape Town Test, was astonishingly left out from the playing XI of second Test against South Africa at SuperSport Park in Centurion.
India made three changes to their playing XI in the second Test, with KL Rahul replacing Shikhar Dhawan and the injured wicket-keeper batsman Wriddhiman Saha making way for Parthiv Patel being the other two. Moreover, Ajinkya Rahane has been left out once again.
Surprised with Bhuvneshwar’s exclusion, Fanie said: "I am genuinely surprised that Kumar didn't play. He should be playing all overseas Test matches for India. He is someone who can take the ball away from right-handers and then bring it back into left-handers as well.
"That is the future of world cricket on quicker wickets and this has been the past. Jasprit Bumrah bowled well, but he primarily bowls into the right-hander, or bowls into the stumps. Even on flat wickets like Centurion, Kumar can average 4 wickets per match. It was a big mistake not picking him.
"Ishant Sharma bowls into the stumps. Bumrah bowls into the stumps too. In South Africa, you cannot have two pacers bowling into the batsmen on a wicket like this. Bumrah bowled well in patches yes, but is he going to take 8-9 wickets in a Test? How many times has Ishant picked 8-9 wickets in a Test?
"He cannot, because he bowls an incoming delivery into the bat. Kumar can do it, Shami can do it, and they have done it before if I am not mistaken, because they have the away going delivery. So, Shami is your future, Kumar is your future, and they bowl quick enough to be in that category. Even Pandya is your future (if he adds a little pace)," he explained.
The world No. 1 Test team will look to salvage some pride in the third Test starting at the Wanderers (Johannesburg) on January 24.
When asked if Virat Kohli and company could avoid the fate of 3-0 whitewash, De Villiers said, "They had their chance at Centurion. It was a wicket tailor-made for India, not South Africa. I don't think Wanderers will be a friendlier wicket than that."
"The conditions will once again be different and the only chance is if Indian batsmen reel themselves in and play more conservatively to stay-in at the crease. In India, once you get in, you become flamboyant and play lots of shots.
"In these conditions, you will get out playing too many shots. In India you don't get out, and the way they are playing now, if they play 10 Tests overseas, they will lose 9 out of 10. I expect better from the World no.1 Test side," he concluded.