Pakistan cricketer Junaid Khan (L) talks with teammate Shoaib Akhtar (L) during a training session at The Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium in Dhaka. Junaid Khan has replaced left-arm fast bowler Sohail Tanvir in Pakistan's 15-man World Cup squad after Tanvir was ruled out with a knee injury. – AFP

HAMBANTOTA: Barely a month ago rookie paceman Junaid Khan was planning to watch the World Cup on television but Sohail Tanvir’s injury has given him the chance to play on the biggest stage.

The 21-year-old is now aiming to step into the shoes of his friend and fellow new-ball bowler at Under-19 level Mohammad Amir, who is serving a five-year ban on charges of corruption.

“I wish I was given a chance with Amir,” said the paceman from Sawabi, a small town in Pakistan’s troubled North-West Frontier Province. “But it’s fate. I am happy to be part of the Pakistan team and want to do my best.”

“We started our careers almost at the same time and were part of Pakistan’s junior team for the Under-19 World Cup in 2008 when we became good friends,” said Junaid of Amir, a fellow left-armer.

Amir modelled his action on legendary left-arm paceman Wasim Akram, but Junaid learnt from another Pakistan great, paceman Imran Khan, by watching YouTube clips.

“When I started cricket I used to watch Imran’s videos on YouTube and I was enamoured by his personality and his bowling and learnt a lot of things through the website as there were limited opportunities in my town,” said Junaid.

Former chief selector Iqbal Qasim said it had been difficult to choose between Amir and Junaid.

“When we were picking the national team in 2009, it was difficult to pick one of the two promising pacemen, both left-armers and with huge potential, but in the end Amir showed more spark and was selected,” said Qasim.

But the selectors knew it would be only a matter of time before Junaid got his chance.

His 167 wickets in just 35 first-class matches are ample proof of his qualities as a fast bowler.

When Pakistan take the field at the Mahinda Rajapakse stadium in Hambantota, Sri Lanka, only Junaid will have an idea of what to expect from the pitch as he played there for Pakistan “A” last year.

He took nine wickets in the match in a lost cause against Sri Lanka “A” but that was enough to catch the eye of the selectors.

“It’s a lucky ground for me, so I am happy I am here again,” Khan said. “If I was given an opportunity, I will do something special again.”

Junaid may not get his chance in Pakistan’s first match against Kenya on Wednesday with Pakistan set to name a full-strength side but is aiming to seize his chance when he gets an opportunity.

“I am happy to play in such a big event and whenever I am given a chance I will try to do something special and make a name for myself,” Junaid vowed.

Pakistan coach Waqar Younis praised Junaid’s energy levels.

“Junaid has extraordinary energy levels and is bowling well. I am sure he will go places at international level,” said Waqar, another legendary Pakistan quick, who took 416 wickets in 262 one-day internationals.


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