Mohammed Shami may be short on game time leading up to the T20 World Cup but former Australia all-rounder Tom Moody feels he's a big player and his expertise would be crucial in India's high voltage opening match against Pakistan in Melbourne on Sunday.
Shami, who was down with COVID-19, was a late inclusion to the squad after Indian pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah was ruled out for an indefinite period following the recurrence of his back stress.
Shami was pressed into action in the final over of their warm-up match against Australia at the Gabba on October 17 as he grabbed 3 for 4 to hand India a six-run win.
"He (Shami) may be short with some volume in his bowling, but that one over he bowled against Australia would have gone a long way with regards to not so much the physical side of things, but definitely the mental side of things,” Moody said at Star Sports show ‘Game Plan'.
Down with COVID-19, Shami could not feature in India's build-up home series against Australia and flew straight to Brisbane after being picked on October 14.
Shami had last played a T20I during the T20 World Cup in UAE-Oman in 2021, while his last international appearance was in an ODI in the England series in July this year.
The 57-year-old Aussie, however, was firm in backing Shami and said he would make a formidable pace trio with Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Arshdeep Singh.
"I'd be going with Shami. I'd just go with his experience. Obviously, Bhuvi and Arshdeep are the first two. I just think that in big tournaments, you back big players. And he's a big player with a lot of experience."
Pakistan superstar pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi, who rattled Indian top-order en route to leading the side to a 10-wicket victory in the last T20 World Cup, will be back in action after recovering from an injury.
But it will be a different venue and the conditions will also vary at the MCG and Moody advised the Indian batters to be watchful not conservative.
"I think it's an intriguing contest, because to me, India are a batting strong side while Pakistan, I think, are a bowling strong side.
"So, for me it's a real contest as to how well India bat against a very strong new ball attack. If they get through that, I see India controlling the game," Moody, who coached Sri Lanka to the ODI World Cup final in 2007, said.
"But that's where they need to manage -- in the first six overs. Now, we know its T20, we know its Power Play, we also know that if we want to get off to a flyer, we have to manage that carefully. So, I'm not saying you need to be conservative, you need to be watchful."
The veteran coach also said both teams would have to be tactfully aware of playing at the MCG.
"Another thing to take into consideration is the big boundaries. Yes, there will be big boundaries at the MCG, we know that. It's a big venue, so the short ball and the use of that length, hard length, with that change of pace into that length, is the key to bowling at the MCG.
"So, I'm sure that both teams are very aware of what the tactical play is with the ball in those top end overs and particularly in those defensive overs."