Fast-bowler Wahab Riaz revealed that he was stunned upon receiving a late night phone call from Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chief selector, to inform him to gear up for the World Cup, reports Cricbuzz.
Riaz’s inclusion for the showpiece event raised many eyebrows as he was neither in the World Cup probables nor amongst the group of 17 for the limited-overs series against England, from which Pakistan had to churn out the final 15.“I was informed late at night that I have to get ready to go to England,” Riaz said at the PCB headquarters in Lahore. “For a minute I couldn’t believe what Inzi bhai told me. I asked ‘where am I going?’ to which he replied ‘you are going to Rawalpindi for a match. Obviously, you are going to play the World Cup’”, Riaz revealed. It has been almost two years since Riaz played an ODI. Now, that he received an unexpected call-up to add firepower to the Pakistan pace attack, which has largely looked innocuous during the five England one-dayers, has added to the pressure on the 33-year-old.
Also, his numbers in England doesn’t portray him as a daunting proposition. With only four wickets in seven matches, the left-armer averages 96.25 and has a strike rate of 86.5 - both of which are his personal low in any country. His economy of 6.67 in England is the second worst behind 7.28 in South Africa. But, Riaz says his experience of playing Tests and shorter-format games for Derbyshire in T20 Blast will aid him. “I have played very less one-dayers in England,” he said. “But, I have Test matches there because of which I am aware of conditions there. Last year I also turned out for Derby in T20 Championship. Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure since Inzi bhai has said that I have been brought back on the basis of my experience.
“I have worked hard and matured as a bowler in the last two years. I have learnt a lot and the results are also visible to everyone... I have always said that the selectors are aware of what they are doing in my previous interviews. Now they feel that they need me. I am ready and will try my best to match the expectations that they have from me.
“I had been having dreams that I am meeting Mickey Arthur and Sarfraz Ahmad. Sometimes they would reject me and sometimes they would pick me. Around 10 days ago, I had a dream that Inzi bhai gave me a call and told me that I have been selected and this is my last chance. Exactly, the same thing happened when he called me to inform about my selection.”
Aggression the key
The conditions are expected to assist batsmen in England this summer with dry weather and the pitches anticipated to be hard and flat. Riaz said the best way of going about the business would be ‘to keep things simple’ with reliance on variations and reverse swing.He reckoned that it would be ‘necessary to have an aggressive approach’ to keep batsmen in check. If a player dares to taunt him, he would hurl vicious bouncers at him like he did during that famous spell against Shane Watson at Adelaide in the quarter-final of the last World Cup.
“The aggression and attitude will matter a lot,” he said. “Since the pitches are placid and conditions are batting conducive it becomes necessary to have an aggressive approach or else the batsmen will dominate you. If a batsman demeans me, I will do what I did that day,” he said while referring to that fiery spell.
“It is important to keep things simple on batting wickets. Variations and reverse swing is the key in the last overs. With the conditions dry and wickets hard in England, there will be reverse swing and the team which will do it better will have the advantage. I have expertise our reverse swing so I will try to restrict the flow of runs in the last overs.”
‘Don’t want to live in past’
Almost a year ago, Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur had raised serious questions over Riaz’s work-ethic which effectively saw him out of the reckoning for the national side. Even Inzamam had previously said that the left-armer had been omitted from the plans. Which means that he had played only two matches for Pakistan, both Tests, since his last ODI, which was Pakistan’s Champions Trophy opener against India.
“I can’t explain the pain I gone through in words but I don’t want to live in past that’s history now,” said Riaz, when asked whether he was hurt for missing out cricket for two straight years. “Now it’s about what we are going to do in World Cup that’s important. Obviously its coach’s duty to have result from the players and he obviously wants those who can win matches for the team. I want to be in that list.
“I was extremely disheartened as I was performing for the past two years. But, since I couldn’t perform in the Champions Trophy I had to sit out because you need to do well continuously to be a part of the team. I was trying to push my case for selection by performing wherever I could. I was very disappointed and I was very frustrated too. I felt that I was hard done by, but at the same time the team was doing well. But, I never lost hope. Now, I feel I have gotten [the] reward.”