Former captain Sourav Ganguly on Tuesday rated Mohammed Shami ahead of the experienced Zaheer Khan as he said the young pacer would be India's "best" as they begin a tough two-match Test series against South Africa in Johannesburg on Wednesday. (Read: Indian batsmen will face a tough task, says Graeme Smith)
"I've seen Zaheer, Srinath in top form... But there are very few bowlers like Shami to have such a right mix of the seam position, the length and pace. I feel Shami will start the series as our best bowler even ahead of Zaheer Khan," Ganguly said here. (Read: Time to move on from Sachin era, says MS Dhoni)
"His seam position, length has been fantastic. It's a completely different Shami," Ganguly said of the Bengal pacer who took nine wickets in his debut Test vs the West Indies in Kolkata, in Sachin Tendulkar's farewell series. (Read: India should play an extra batsman, says Sunil Gavaskar)
Shami was incidentally the leading wicket taker with nine from three matches in India's 2-0 rout by the Proteas in the recently concluded ODI series. (Read: New Indian players must take leaf out of Sachin's book: Kapil Dev tells NDTV)
Ganguly was of the opinion that Shami has the golden opportunity to seal his place for India by putting up a good show in seam-friendly South African conditions.
"Shami has got the ability to be successful for a long period of time.
"We won't get a better bowling condition than this. Zaheer is making a comeback. He needs a bit of time. It's a big opportunity to create an impact in fast bowling conditions," he said.
As they will go into the series without playing any practice match, it would be tough for the Indians and Ganguly said it would be the batsmen who would be the key for them to win matches.
"When they lost the first two ODIs, I felt they were not able to acclimatise to the conditions. They will have to play the Test without any practice match. Despite the talented line-up, it will be tough to play. It won't be easy.
"In five-day cricket, there'll be more terror of the fast bowling. Only the Indian batting will determine the outcome of the attack." Â
"Being a former captain, I don't want to predict the scoreline. I don't want to say anything. India will have a very difficult task. The key will be to create a mental frame of mind. Otherwise it will be difficult."
Recollecting India's two Test wins in South Africa, Ganguly said: "On both occasions, we batted first. It's good to take pressure first up."
Ganguly further said South Africa might go with an all out pace attack, leaving out leg-spinner Imran Tahir.
"It will be a lively wicket. Test bowling attack is different. If I was captain I would have gone for Styen, Morkel and Philander.
"Philander will be the toughest to face as he bowls with right length. I would have gone for an all out fast bowling attack," he told a Bengali news channel.
Asked whether the Proteas would resort to sledging, Ganguly said, "It will be there in Test series as well. India will be vulnerable. They will definitely play aggressively."
The series will also mark the beginning of a new era without Sachin Tendulkar as there would be a new number four batsman.
But Ganguly said it's not fair to compare the Indian youngsters with the now retired Tendulkar.
"We should not at all compare India's talented batsmen with that of Tendulkar. The likes of Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay and Shikhar Dhawan would play in real match situation for the first time in Wanderers. It would be a huge challenge."