Former Pakistan tearaway fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's suggestion for India rising pace sensation Mohammed Shami is to "work on his run-up" as he feels the talented speedster "has the potential to serve Indian cricket for a long, long time". (Click here for latest on ICC World Twenty20)
"Whatever I have seen, Mohammed Shami is the best fast bowler that India have at the moment. He is talented and should be nurtured with a lot of care. But I think he has one basic technical flaw in his bowling. His run-up to the crease is not very smooth and he needs to work on that aspect in order to get better in the coming days," Akhtar told PTI during an exclusive interaction here on Monday.
Asked to elaborate on what he meant about run-up problem, Akhtar said, "I think his run-up is not a measured and consistent one. It looks at times that he is labouring to the crease. That should not be the case. They should have a smooth action because that will help to generate a lot of pace on a consistent basis. Shami, I believe will serve Indian cricket for a long time, if he can work on that aspect."
Someone, who never believed in cutting down on pace despite several injuries during his more than a decade long career, Akhtar has one advice for the budding pacers. "Do everything required but never cut down on pace. Look, pace is the key for any fast bowler. I am not saying that you shouldn't concentrate on maintaining a good line and length but you can always work around those areas keeping the pace intact," Akhtar reasoned.
The 38-year-old, who has played 46 Tests and 163 ODIs for Pakistan in a career spanning over 13 years, feels strongly that fast bowlers should abstain from playing T20 cricket in order to keep that "fear-factor" in the batsmen. "I know it's a difficult ask but I feel that fast bowlers should stop playing T20 cricket. Having said that, I am not for once saying that they are incapable of playing the format, look at the pitches and playing conditions. It's heavily loaded in favour of batsmen," Akhtar said.
"T20 cricket has done one thing. T20 has completely diminished the fear about tearaway quicks, that used to be earlier there in the minds of the batsmen. The finest bowlers can be belted over their heads by batsmen who are just hitting through the line."
"Once the fear factor is gone, the batsmen also do not have any apprehension about the fast bowlers even when they are facing them in Test and ODI cricket. If you want to preserve good fast bowlers for the longer version, which is still sacrosanct, then you need to do away with quicks in shorter format. Otherwise, make some rules for the fast bowlers to survive. Authorities should think about them and not only about batsmen," added the fearsome bowler of yesteryears.
Asked what kind of more variations can a fast bowler bring in his game in order to survive the rigours of T20 cricket, Akhtar said: "A lot of bowlers do use the slower deliveries but I don't see them using the slower bouncer which can be an effective delivery.
"Well it needs some skill and a lot of training in the nets to have a firm grasp on it but I think it could be an effective delivery in the shorter version," he opined.
Akhtar, who has 178 Test and 247 ODI wickets is not happy with the kind of talent that has emerged as far as fast bowling is concerned. "Apart from (Dale) Steyn, probably another bowler I would like to pay and watch is Mitchell Johnson. These two are cut above the rest. But where are fast bowlers? I don't find fast bowlers now. Earlier, we had Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee, Shane Bond. These were fast bowlers. But you have made the game such that you don't get men, who can really bowl quick," he said.
"To make a game more colourful, you not only need batsmen but also really good quick bowlers. That's how the game becomes more entertaining," Akhtar signed off.