What's the story?
Former South African fast bowler Andre Nel has lavished praise on the combative nature of Virat Kohli, Hardik Pandya and Shikhar Dhawan. Picturing himself in a cross-generational on-field battle with the three attacking batsmen, the 40-year old revealed that he would have relished the challenge of bowling at the Indian trio.
During a candid chat with Cricbuzz, Nel affirmed, "I would love to bowl at Kohli. I always wanted to get the best players out. Yes I might have failed but if I can compete at that level, I would have loved to bowl to him. I would love to bowl to Pandya too. He is always looking for his battle, that's his nature. He wants to counter-attack. That's a challenge I would have liked to take on."
He elaborated, "Also, Shikhar Dhawan - looks like a guy who doesn't veer away from a battle. The bigger the battle, that's what I would have wanted. These three seem like real characters in the Indian side. There are other good players - like Pujara is an unbelievable player but he doesn't give anything away. But those three guys look like, if you give them a battle, they'll give you a battle back. That's the guys I would like to bowl to."
In the past...
In an international career spanning from 2001 and 2008, Nel represented South Africa in 36 Tests, 79 ODIs as well as two T20Is. Known for his eccentric nature and aggressive demeanour, the pacer picked up 231 wickets across all formats and also engaged in quite a few stand-offs with opposition players.
The heart of the matter
Notwithstanding the skirmish with Gautam Gambhir, the most popular moment from Nel's career was his face-off against Sreesanth during the 2006 Johannesburg Test. When asked on his verbal salvo and the fellow pacer's astonishing celebration after striking a six, he termed the entire episode as in the 'heat of the moment' before divulging that himself and Sreesanth have always laughed together over it since then.
Lamenting that the changes in rules (such as demerit points) have shackled present-day cricketers and prevented them from expressing themselves on the field, Nel believed that the current circuit could do with more characters. In such vein, he exuded high regard for the feisty manner in which the likes of Kohli, Pandya and Dhawan go about their game.
Parallels from history
Not surprisingly, this is not the first instance of a former fast bowler expressing his desire to take on Virat Kohli on the field. During December, the legendary Wasim Akram had revealed that he would have loved to bowl at the run machine from Delhi.
It appears as if Kagiso Rabada is the only feisty South African fast bowler challenging the Indian batsmen in the ongoing ODI series. It would have made for fascinating viewing if the Proteas had a combative character like Nel bowling at the other end.