How do you look at the fact that the top two teams are playing just three ODIs and two Tests?
That’s one issue I don’t want to talk about. I am quite unfamiliar with the Indian art of ‘why did that not happen?’, ‘why is it just a two-match Test series?’ and all that. These are things that are out of my control.
You played against many an Indian side. The fact is that India have never won a Test series in your country. Would you put your money on this side to create history?
I think putting my money is something I can’t do (laughs). All I can say is that we will have two good Tests and three entertaining ODIs. I agree that this team does not have too many big names. The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman and Virender Sehwag aren’t part of the side. So, playing South Africa in South Africa will be a massive challenge for the youngsters. But at the same time, this side will be highly motivated. The style of cricket these guys play, our sport-loving public will be glued to their television sets. I watched them play against Australia in the recent ODI series and your guys play with a lot of flair.
What are the basic requirements for a fast bowler to succeed in South Africa?
We all know that the South African pitches favour fast bowlers. India have some good young bowlers, but the best thing is that Zaheer Khan is part of the team. He has played on our pitches many times and knows what it takes to succeed in South Africa. The young bowlers will learn from him. The ideal length in South Africa is completely different from that in India. What’s important is that the current lot of Indian bowlers knows how to swing the ball. If you can manage to swing it in India, then you can very well do it in South Africa. The contest between the two sets of bowlers will be a battle within the battle.
If you were the bowling coach of the Indian team, what would your advice be to Zaheer Khan, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Ishant Sharma?
It would be a good thing if they hired me. I don’t need to teach Zaheer anything. He has played cricket for quite some time now. Also, I must say that the wickets in South Africa now favour the Indian style of bowling. Our wickets are a little bit on the flatter side. They don’t assist the bowlers as they used to. Look at Kingsmead (Durban), for instance. There was a time when we could never lose a game there. We used to go there knowing that every single fast bowler in the squad would play. But now, the wicket has changed. It’s almost like an Indian wicket. It will favour the Indian bowlers. I was very impressed with this new bowler who reversed the ball against the West Indies.
That was Mohammed Shami…
I watched him knock the West Indians over in both Test matches. Reversing the ball is an art our bowlers haven’t mastered yet. And you have a young guy with so little experience and he has already mastered the art. For me, it’s advantage India, especially when it comes to the Test series. You will feel you are playing at home.
The tour starts off with three ODIs. Do you think this will help India assess the conditions?
Most definitely. When I look at the Indian side, they have just beaten the West Indies and Australia.
They are in very good form and in the right mood to play ODI cricket. Play the 50-over matches, give us entertainment, get used to the conditions and get ready for the Tests. We want to see your batsmen hit the ball out of the ground. Now-a-days, 350 is the par score when you play against India! And even then, they can win by nine wickets!
You will be in the commentary box and would be surprised to see so many new players?
Well, I saw the series against Australia. Your batsmen played the likes of Mitchell Johnson pretty well. If you can maintain the same level of play, you will do well here. Quality-wise, the South African attack is very similar to the Australian attack. Our team is heavily dependent on Dale Steyn.
The rest of the bowlers favour India’s style of playing.
India will be travelling to South Africa without Sachin Tendulkar. How sorely will he be missed?
We were in the same position when we lost Shaun Pollock. The team has got to move on. And I must say that India have already moved on. The likes of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma will do the needful. You also have MS Dhoni to anchor the team. That guy can win you a match from any position. So, India don’t have much to worry about.
Your prediction for the series…
All I can say is that it will be an entertaining series. India have some unbelievable spinners and they will most definitely come into play because our wickets have changed. We have just one frontline spinner. Make no mistake, the spinners will play a massive role in this series.