Fanie de Villiers was an important fast bowler for South Africa in the 90s, forming a potent partnership with Allan Donald.

He could not just put a lid on the run-rate with his accuracy but also make inroads with deliveries that left the batsman. Fanie, now 53, spoke to Sportstar here on Saturday.

Fanie was surprised at the exclusion of Bhuvneshwar Kumar at SuperSport Park. “He takes the ball away from the right-hander and moves it away from the left-hander. What more do you want? He can seam the ball too. To me, Bhuvneshwar is the real deal, you should play him all the time.”

Fanie elaborated, “Throughout world cricket, bowlers who bowl stump to stump and move the ball away from the right-hander from close to the off-stump are far more effective in Tests.  You need not have great pace, look at Glenn McGrath or Shaun Pollock or Vernon Philander.”

Turning his attention to the Indian attack, Fanie said, “The problem with Ishant Sharma is that his stock ball comes into the batsman and only the odd ball goes through straight outside off.”

He said, “The same with Jasprit Bumrah, he essentially gets the ball to come in with his action and this limits him in Tests. And Hardik Pandya, in Test cricket, is more a batsman who can bowl.”

Fanie was impressed with Mohammad Shami. “He has a nice run-up, pace and away moment. He’s precious for India, they should keep him wrapped in cotton wool.”

The South African felt a surfeit of ODI and Twenty20 matches these days had created bowlers who generally brought the ball in to deny runs. Fanie said, “In the shorter duration matches, where there is just one or no slip, the pacemen do not want to give width to the batsmen outside off. So they get the ball to come in more and carry the habit to the longer version too.”

The Indian batsmen, he said, “have to get over their sub-continental instinct of getting forward to most deliveries on the off-stump and play a lot more off the back foot on the pitches here.” 

Talking about the pitch for the second Test, Fanie said, “the surface will get quicker as the match progresses. A total of 350 is a good first innings score here.”

And Fanie declared Dale Steyn as the greatest paceman of all time. “Dale is the best ever, look at his methods, his average and strike rate. I am sure he will be back.”

A student of history, Fanie often travelled in public transport in the countries he visited. “I loved to see the history behind the colonial monuments in different parts of the world. I remember in Kolkata, there was security outside the team hotel, and I sneaked out through the kitchen door! And I got a Rs. 2 bus ticket.”

That’s Fanie for you. A blithe spirit who made things hard for the batsmen in the middle.