LAHORE: A last-minute call-up to Pakistan’s World Cup squad has given paceman Wahab Riaz fresh impetus to give his best.
Out of the team’s plans since its Champions Trophy triumph in 2017, the left-armer was picked on Tuesday as Pakistan announced their final squad for the cricketing showpiece in England.
It came as a surprise to many. Wahab wasn’t even in the 23-member probables’ list for the recently-concluded series against England and the World Cup. But he was dreaming of it all along.
“I was quite hopeful,” he said at a news conference on Tuesday, “… as I had been seeing this all along in my dreams where I was meeting [head coach] Mickey Arthur or [chief selector] Inzamam-ul-Haq. When I received the call from Inzamam on Sunday night asking me to be ready for the World Cup it took me time to figure out whether it was a dream or not.”
Playing at the World Cup offers Wahab a lucky break. Picked for his experience, he feels it’s an opportunity he should take with both hands.
“It’s a big opportunity for me,” said Wahab, who will turn 34 next month.
“It could prove make or break for my career. I will be under pressure and will need all the confidence. The selectors’ expectations would be high as they have picked me for my experience and my ability to reverse swing the ball and use the old ball better so I will try to live up to them.”
One of the highlights of Wahab’s modest ODI career — he has 102 wickets in 79 matches — was his one-on-one battle with Australia’s Shane Watson during the last World Cup. Watson and Australia ended up winning that quarter-final match, going all the way to lift the World Cup.
“We need to be aggressive since the pitches are placid and conditions are good for batting,” he said. “If the situation demands, I will do what I did then [against Watson].”
A reason for Wahab’s recall was due to the struggles of the Pakistan fast bowlers in their 4-0 drubbing by England this month. Wahab, however, was optimistic about Pakistan’s chances at the World Cup.
“There were some positives to be taken from that series like the batsmen did were well and put up big scores on the board,” he said. “But poor fielding let us down.”
In his last ODI, against India in the Champions Trophy group match, Wahab was belted for 87 runs in 8.4 overs. He was subsequently dropped and didn’t feature in Pakistan’s victorious campaign in which they beat India in the final. That seemed the end for Wahab with coach Arthur going as far as saying that Wahab had never been a match-winning bowler for Pakistan.
But Wahab isn’t dwelling on the past. “Past is past and we should rather be thinking about the future and I’m determined to become a match-winner during the World Cup.”
To keep up his fitness levels, Wahab has hired a personal trainer. “I’m ready to appear for any physical test and have been training under the guidance of my own trainer,” he said. “I haven’t been part of the team but I have been working hard to keep my fitness levels up.”
He might have been performing well domestically but international cricket is a whole different ball-game. Thrust into the spotlight all of a sudden, Wahab seems to be taking things in his stride.
“It is a challenge for me,” he said. “There were frustrating times when I wasn’t being selected [over the last two years]. But it is all part of life. Now is my time and I will give my best.”
Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2019