HBL Pakistan Super League: Passionate Wahab Riaz not giving up on national comeback

Published January 23, 2022
In this file photo, Wahab Riaz celebrates after the dismissal of Afghanistan's Mohammad Nabi during the 2019 World Cup group stage match between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Headingley in Leeds. ─ AFP/File
In this file photo, Wahab Riaz celebrates after the dismissal of Afghanistan's Mohammad Nabi during the 2019 World Cup group stage match between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Headingley in Leeds. ─ AFP/File

KARACHI: Wahab Riaz is not giving up. At 36, the veteran pacer has an unwavering belief that he will play for Pakistan again.

The left-armer made his last appearance for the country back in December 2020 in a T20 International against New Zealand and had announced last year that he will retire from international cricket after the 2023 Cricket World Cup, set to be held in India.

Pakistan, in the meanwhile, have managed to identify their core bowling group for all three formats over the last 12 months, which means Wahab, who will lead Peshawar Zalmi in the upcoming seventh edition of the HBL Pakistan Super League, has to do the extraordinary to achieve his ambition.

“I am very passionate about playing for Pakistan and probably that is the reason I am still playing cricket,” said the Zalmi skipper during a virtual press conference on Saturday.

“When you’re playing cricket, it is obvious that your focus is Pakistan only.”

Wahab is well aware of the bowling arsenal Pakistan have been able to build and wishes the best for his colleagues.

The Lahore-born fast bowler is also confident that his performances in the domestic circuit and T20 leagues around the world during the time he has been away from the national side have been good enough for him to be considered among the best available options.

Wahab was the fifth-highest wicket-taker with 12 scalps in the 2021 National T20 Cup and maintained an economy rate of less than seven runs, the best among the top five.

He also claimed the second highest number of wickets in the last edition of the PSL, bagging 18 dismissals at an average of 23.44.

“I’ve performed in all the tournaments that I’ve played. Last year too, I was the second highest wicket-taker,” said Wahab.

“Shaheen and Haris are great bowlers and I pray for them to be more successful. I think my record speaks for itself when it comes to answering the question if I can perform better than them in the PSL.

“I am not competing with anyone but myself because I wish to give my level best in this tournament and do everything that it takes to play for Pakistan.”

The veteran said he is eager to make the most of the opportunity in the upcoming PSL matches, with the first set to be held on January 27 at the National Stadium here. Zalmi play their opener against Quetta Gladiators on the next day.

“This tournament is another opportunity for me to perform well and attract the selectors’ attention to make a comeback,” said Wahab.

“I feel that I can serve Pakistan for another two, three years so I’ll try my level best.”

Wahab was also impressed by the measures taken by Pakistan Cricket Board to ensure the PSL is concluded on the planned February 27 deadline with the number of coronavirus cases surging throughout the country.

The Zalmi captain also called for unity and responsibility from every stakeholder of the cash-rich league to make the event a successful one in these times.

“It is definitely better than last year since the whole hotel has been booked and all floors are with the PCB,” said Wahab. “I think it will make a huge difference because there won’t be any chance for people from outside, who used to roam around, to make an impact. It is a great step to take.

“All people involved in the PSL — the players, security officials and the PCB officials — will have to be responsible and stay united to fight with these testing times. The last two seasons were halted, this time it should not happen.”

Former Pakistan skipper and Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfraz Ahmed also expressed satisfaction with the arrangements. The wicket-keeper said the teams were eager to get on the field after finishing the three-day quarantine period which started on Wednesday.

“We’ve been living in bubbles since the last two years,” said Sarfraz.

“Last year, the bio-secure bubble arranged by PCB in Abu Dhabi was outstanding and this time too it looks great. We’re just waiting for the isolation to end and looking forward to play.”

Just like Wahab, Sarfraz too will be aiming to prove a point in the PSL that he is among the best available wicket-keepers for Pakistan.

“Any domestic event, be it PSL, national T20 or first class tournament, is important for every player who wants to be selected for the Pakistan team or make a comeback in it,” said the 34-year-old.

“So, obviously, it is important for me too and therefore I’ll try to give my best for the team.”

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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