Legendary Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar has hailed Mohammed Shami, who played a crucial role in India's emphatic win in the first Test against South Africa, as the "king of reverse swing" while also predicting that the 29-year-old will "thrive" under a "potent" captain like Virat Kohli.
Shami, who continues to play second fiddle to Jasprit Bumrah, didn't let the Indian camp feel the absence of the injured team-mate. He picked up a brilliant five-wicket haul in the fourth innings of the match at Visakhapatnam, which India won by 203 runs.
The craft and ferocity displayed by Shami during that spell of ten-odd overs made waves across the world, earning praise and raised the bar for pace bowling on docile sub-continental pitches. And Akhtar, who is undoubtedly one of the greatest fast bowlers, couldn't stop himself from revealing his mentorial relationship with the Indian bowler.
Speaking in a video on his YouTube channel, Akhtar said that he once advised Shami to try and become a tearaway pacer while also using the reverse swing, a rare quality in contemporary fast bowlers from the sub-continent.
"After India's (50-over) World Cup disappointment, Shami called me up one day and said he was feeling sad that he could not do well for India. I told him not to lose heart but maintain fitness. I told him that the home series is coming and you will do well.
"I told Shami that I want him to become a tearaway pacer, running through batting line-ups. He has seam and swing, besides that he has reverse swing which very few bowlers in the subcontinent have. I told him you can become king of reverse swing.
"Now, you see what he has done, he has got wickets from a docile pitch. I am very happy for him.
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After the match, Shami had credited skipper Kohli for giving Indian bowlers the freedom to do what they want, including the length of a spell.
"Virat Kohli as a captain always hears us out and gives us the freedom to follow our strategy during the match. He has given us the freedom to take a call on whether we want to bowl 5 overs or 7 overs or more -- he says ‘if you have the power, go ahead and bowl'."
Akhtar saw that trust between Shami and Kohli, and said that "Under Virat Kohli, Shami is going to thrive. I told Shami that Kohli is a potent captain who enjoys captaincy and gives full freedom to his bowlers."
The second Test match will be played in Pune, beginning Thursday.