Hamilton: India's pace spearhead Mohammed Shami on Monday received the biggest compliment in his two-year international career as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time Sir Richard Hadlee termed the young seamer's efforts in the ICC Cricket World Cup "particularly impressive".
New Zealand's greatest cricketing icon said that the Indian bowling unit's turnaround after their disastrous Test and tri-series show has been very impressive.
"I am more impressed with the Indian pace attack now than a couple of months ago. In Australia (referring to Test series), I thought the attack really struggled with their line and length. They were too inconsistent. They've sorted that out now. Shami, in particular, has been impressive.
"The bowling has been the weaker suit, but they've sorted that out. That is going to make them very competitive in this tournament," Hadlee said during a media interaction for a World Cup promotional event at the Hobiton Movie Set here.
Like a true-blue Black Caps supporter, Hadlee's vote for the best fast bowling unit went to his countrymen Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori.
"The four best attacks are New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and India. Our attack has proved they are the best in the world at the moment. Southee and Boult have taken 13 wickets each while Vettori has 12. We've bowled sides out which proves we are doing well.
"There are some other good bowling attacks. Australia, for one, with Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson is a good attack. Steyn is getting better for South Africa with a good back up in Morkel. But South Africa will struggle in absence of a quality fifth bowler during knock-out stages."
For someone who could bowl both inswing and outswing with same action, it was only natural that Hadlee would point out about the subtle changes in trend that has happened in fast bowling over the years. Hadlee wants to see the old-fashioned inswinging yorkers come back in the picture.
"We're not seeing many yorkers bowled by the strike bowlers. What they do is have a lot of change-ups. In my time, I had two slower balls. Today fast bowlers have four varieties of slower balls. Sometimes they're bowling wide and keeping it full, so the batsmen can score only in one direction. So their attacking plan is very different from when I played.
"But I still believe that if you get the good old fashioned toe-crusher (yorker) in, on middle and leg, even if the batsman is backing away, he can only hit straight. With bigger bats and shorter boundaries, you're getting more runs, and 120-150 in the last 10 overs is far too many. It's the difference between winning and losing," said the 63-year-old Hadlee who has 431 Tests and 158 ODI wickets.
Hadlee, who played 86 Tests and 115 ODIs for New Zealand, during his international career of close to two decades showered accolades on current captain Brendon McCullum saying that he never got a chance to play under a captain as aggressive as the explosive right-hander.
It's fair to say, that in my career of 18 years through the 1970s and the 1980s, I didn't play under a captain as aggressive as Brendon, Hadlee said.
But he also added that there is a flip side to being aggressive.
"When you're aggressive and proactive, it can be high risk. It can backfire too although at this stage, it hasn't.
But, what he is saying to his bowlers, and if I had a captain like that what he would be saying to me is, I back you. I'll give you the field that you need to get wickets, and do the job. That would've been nice in my time, although it didn't happen. I had some good captains, but Brendon is something a little bit special at the moment.
Hadlee didn't agree with the notion that New Zealand will be exposed if they play on big Australian grounds after having won their matches at the smaller venues in New Zealand.
We'd be very good on large grounds as well. We have very good power hitters, as other teams have. You can only play on the conditions that are given to you and we've done that very well so far. We're bowling sides out and getting the job done, Hadlee said in team's support.
Although New Zealand have played in World Cup semi-finals on six occasions, they have never been able to reach the final.
We have a very good chance, probably our best ever in a World Cup. We're very well coached by Mike Hesson and extremely well led by Brendon McCullum. And we're one of the best fielding units in the competition. You just have to look at McCullum and the way he puts his body on the line. When players see that, they're going to give everything for sake of victory, said Hadlee.
But Hadlee did have a word of caution for the Black Caps as he feels that knock-outs will be a different ball game altogether and there may be a match where they would have to chase a score in excess of 300.
But once you reach the knockouts it's a different ballgame altogether for all eight teams. One of the challenges our batsman will have is that we may have to chase a score of 300 to 350. We haven't been stretched to that stage so far and that is something we have to be wary of, Hadlee signed off.