Former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar, once a nemesis of many a top Indian batsman, is now ready to offer advice to his arch-rivals, saying that Mohammad Shami, Umesh Yadav and Varun Aaron will be key to India's 2015 World Cup defence. (Mahendra Singh Dhoni wants India to learn from England experience)
"Shami, Umesh (Yadav) and (Varun) Aaron are the ones. Keep them fresh, well-trained and give them proper practice from the World Cup's point of view. If these three bowlers can be fit and firing in the World Cup, then India will be unstoppable," Akhtar said on the sidelines the limited-overs series between India and England. (Virat Kohli back in form, shatters Indian T20 records)
Shoaib, who will coach the State Bank of Pakistan in the upcoming first-class season, also gave some food for thought to the Indian think-tank that has been using Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar like work-horses over the past year or so.
"Atleast, one month before the World Cup is to begin India should give their main fast bowlers optimum rest. Rotate them, take care of them and then bring them up to match fitness slowly. (Duncan Fletcher's fate to be decided by Ravi Shastri's report: Sources)
"If they play a long tour in Australia, then they will get jaded and fatigued. So train them away from international cricket and then slowly give them match fitness. Make sure they don't look for match fitness in the World Cup. Keep them fresh for the World Cup," opined Akhtar.
Sharing his concern for Indian bowling, Akhtar sounded pretty optimistic on evidence of the five-match ODI series in England that the Men in Blue won by a 3-1 margin.
"India's death bowling is improving. Shami has been very good in this ODI series. The problem is that they do not have someone at mid-on and mid-off telling them what to do. India is missing experience in its bowling.
"They need to have a Pakistani mindset for bowling. Wasim Akram and I have been helping them whenever they have approached us with questions, but we can only help so much. This is a slow process, but definitely they are getting there in terms of death bowling," he said.
India will be playing a full series versus West Indies at home and thereafter going on a full tour to Australia.
They will spend five months Down Under, playing four Tests, a tri-series against Australia and England, and then the World Cup in Australia-New Zealand.
"The Indian bowlers only need to concentrate on their pace. They shouldn't worry about movement. They have got the ability to move the ball but they don't have pace. You should always do new things in the nets and look to add what weapon is not there in your armoury.
"So they should keep looking to work on their pace, looking to increase it. If they try to maintain their current pace, it will come down because of fatigue as they play too much cricket," said the tearaway fast bowler, who holds the record for the quickest ball bowled in international cricket. The 39-year-old Rawalpindi Express also urged India to nurture cricketing relations to keep the game healthy.
"People from both countries want to see the political issues between our two countries resolved. But even if they are not resolved, we should not stop sport, particularly cricket, because it brings the two countries together," said Akhtar.
Things might turn for the better with Pakistan T20 side Lahore Lions being issued an Indian visa for participating in the Champions League event starting Spetember 13. Akhtar said that cricket needs Pakistan to survive and vice versa.
"Cricket should happen between our two nations. India should play Pakistan because Pakistan cricket needs their support. And world cricket needs Pakistan cricket to stay alive," said a hopeful Akhtar.
India and Pakistan are slated to meet in the 2015 ODI World Cup and as per the new FTP they are also expected to engage in a full series in December next year and Akhtar feels that Pakistan should never be ignored in fututre FTPs.
"We are always talking about making cricket a global game. If Pakistan cricket, or West Indies cricket for example who are also on the downhill, do not survive then who will you play with? So we should all be concerned mutually. I am concerned about Indian cricket and its bowlers. Similarly Indian cricket/administration should also be concerned about Pakistan cricket's state of health," he said.