Shoaib Akhtar has applauded the performance of the Indian pacers in South Africa but added that they have to work a lot before considering themselves as a good fast bowling nation. He also added that despite Rohit Sharma failing to deliver so far but he sees shades of Inzamam-ul-Haq in the Indian.
The Indian cricket team has been a target of the critics after two consecutive losses in the three-match Test series against South Africa. Considering India’s depth in the batting order, supporters were hoping that the team would be able to create a record of ten Test series win on the trot but in Cape Town and Centurion the team were completely outplayed. But the thing which was highlighted even in the losses was the performance of the bowling department. The former Pakistan pacer who took the fast bowling attack to the new heights in his time seemed impressed with Indian pace attack's performance but he sees it as the beginning for them.
"I would not say that. I would say they are gradually improving and there is a long way to go before India can call itself a good fast bowling nation," Akhtar told PTI.
"Five years ago, I had thought that Varun Aaron, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammad Shami will be the ones to lead India's pace department on overseas tours. But that did not happen with Aaron having fitness issues, Yadav being good in patches and erratic other times, like Wahab Riaz.
“The thinking that (Virat) Kohli and the team management seem to have, they will only get better. India
The Indian team traveled to South Africa with all new pace attack which included the likes of Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, and Jasprit Bumrah. In the first two games, they were supported by all-rounder Hardik Pandya and off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin. The pacers, in particular, did a good job in Cape Town and Centurion as they claimed 30 of the 40 wickets on offer.
"I saw the first two Tests in bits and pieces. It would be wrong to say that it (India's loss) was expected. It is still one of the best Test teams.
"Yes, they did not play well. The batsmen should have applied themselves better. It is, maybe, a result of a bad combination. Not taking wickets at the right time, not scoring enough runs," he expressed.
On the struggling pitch of Cape Town where players from both teams faced trouble in scoring, Hardik Pandya impressed all by playing a 93-run knock and he also took three wickets in the game. Akhtar praised Pandya’s heroic effort and said that other players didn’t spend much time on the field which resulted in less understanding in getting the idea of the track and it becomes the main reason of wickets falling.
"Most of the guys in the team are right up there. They need to go back to the drawing board. I am quite impressed with (Hardik) Pandya as well. It is just the batsmen who did not apply themselves on pitches that were not so tough to bat on."
From the start of the series, Kohli has been on the radar for his decision in team selection as he picked Rohit over Test team’s vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane. When India toured South Africa back in 2013-14, Rahane had scored 47 and 15 in Johannesburg, 51* and 96 in Durban. Rohit, on the other hand, managed 14, 6, 0 and 25 runs in the same tour.
After losing the first game by 72 runs, the Indian skipper had tried to justify the move by stating that they considered players’ current form. Rohit who played 11 and 10 runs innings in the Newlands was picked again in the second Test of the series.
"There is a lot of debate on Rohit. We all know he is a great talent but in the world, we are living you have to perform. He is very talented, I see shades of Inzamam-ul-Haq in him.
"Unfortunately, he has not delivered on what was expected of him. And not having Ajinkya Rahane was shocking because he is your most technically correct batsman," he said.
The Cape Town Test was a neck-to-neck affair between India and the hosts with bowlers dominating proceedings. Even in the second Test, Kohli played a 153-run knock but failed to get any support from the other end but the bowlers tried to keep the hope alive till their second innings where the batsmen failed to show their fighting spirit in front of a sharp attack of debutant Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada. Akhtar pointed out the positive aspects of the tour as he believed that the experience will help the side in their upcoming foreign tours.
"They have a chance to turn it all around (in England and Australia later this year). I would look at it like that. To lose a series like that could be the best thing that could happen to them.
"Before England, they have to utilize the time in the right manner, get the practice right. A Lot of improvement is required in batting. England is a good team at home but you cannot write off India," the