The Indian pace attack has upped its ante and has displayed disciplined bowling attack to stop the formidable South African batting line-up in the ongoing Test series. Former Pakistan pacer Shoaib Akhtar said on Friday that the Indian pace attack was improving gradually and there was a long way to go before India could call itself a good fast bowling nation. However, the performance of the current crop of Indian pace battery of Ishant Sharma, Umesh Yadav, Mohammad Shami, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah has impressed the Pakistani fast bowling star.
"Is it one of the best pace attacks India have ever had? 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.
"India have always been known for their batting but nowadays you are seeing an emergence of fast bowlers too but still I would say a long way to go," said the fearsome 'Rawalpindi Express', who will be seen in action at St. Moritz Ice Cricket in Switzerland next month.
The Indian bowlers had a fine performance in the Rainbow Nation as 30 of the 40 wickets taken were by the pacers. However, as captain Virat Kohli pointed out, it was the batting that let India down.
To many, India's series loss in South Africa was not entirely surprising but according to Akhtar, the result was unexpected.
"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.
"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."
Like many greats of the game, he too was shocked by the omission of Ajinkya Rahane in the playing XI.
"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."
Akhtar concluded his thoughts on India's performance on an optimistic note, saying the defeat in South Africa could be a blessing in disguise.
"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 utilise 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."
(With PTI inputs)