Irfan Pathan celebrates the dismissal of Richard Levi for 19 runs during a one-off T20 International between South Africa and India at Wanderers Stadium. (AFP Photo)
Former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram lauded the Indian selectors' decision to pick Irfan Pathan for the ongoing tour of Sri Lanka and said the Baroda speedster is the best choice to fill the all-rounder's slot in the team.
"He only needs a longer run to get his confidence back. I think Pathan is a better choice than any other all-rounder in India. He has improved a lot. I think it's important for Pathan and India that they need somebody at number seven or eight who can bowl and bat and this guy has got the ability," Akram told espnstar.com from London.
Pathan made the cut after Vinay Kumar pulled out of the Lankan series due to shoulder injury. He was dropped from the national side after a not-so-impressive run with the ball in Australia and in the Asia Cup where he ended with only 11 wickets from seven games.
Akram, meanwhile, is itching to see Yuvraj Singh back on the field.
"He is a very strong man, he's been through a lot and I think he'll be fine. Once Yuvraj starts playing he might not do well in one or two games, but once he gets his fitness back, he'll be Yuvraj of the old. I can't wait to see him," he said.
Yuvraj, who staged a brave recovery from germ-cell cancer, has been named in a 30-man preliminary squad for the World Twenty20 to be played in Sri Lanka from September 18 to October 7.
The Pakistani pace legend also lauded the national selectors for picking Lakshmipathy Balaji as T20 World Cup probable.
"Balaji is only 30 and I am glad that Indian selectors picked him. He is experienced with the slower bouncers, yorkers, and swings the new ball as well," he said.
"I think Balaji will be very handy and useful for India. I know him very well as he plays for my team Kolkata Knight Riders. He has clever bowling strategies and a very good mindset," he added.
The Tamil Nadu pacer last played an international game against Sri Lanka in February 2009.
After a long break, India started their new season with five ODI series against the Lankans at Hambantota.
Akram said the tour has come at a very crucial time and will give India valuable inputs of the conditions ahead of the T20 World Cup.