Wahab Riaz's 2019 World Cup dreams get a shot in the arm with Pakistan Test recall

Waseem Ahmed 17:32 30/09/2018
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Wahab Riaz is making his Test comeback in the series against Australia.

A few months ago Wahab Riaz was derided for his work ethic by Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur.

“He has not won us a game in two years. I expect players that have been around for a long time to be winning us games and setting standards. Otherwise we will invest in younger players who have long futures. We have good youngsters around,” Arthur had told ESPNCricinfo in April.

“I cannot fault Wahab when he has a ball in his hand but his work ethic around training is something needs to be looked at,” the South African had added.

Those statements by Arthur were made in April after the 33-year-old pacer was omitted from the list of the 25 probables for Pakistan’s tour of Ireland and England.

It was a strange statement given the left-armer’s display in his most recent Test for Pakistan. The fast bowler was the best performing Pakistan pacer in their loss to Sri Lanka in the second Test at Dubai last year with a five-wicket match haul.

Wahab had picked a five-wicket haul in his last Test for Pakistan.

Wahab had picked a five-wicket haul in his last Test for Pakistan.

With his advancing age, it would have been easy to assume that Wahab’s international career had come to a permanent halt after the remarks made by Arthur.

However, an underperforming Mohammad Amir has opened the doors for the pacer’s return with Wahab being recalled for Pakistan’s upcoming Test series against Australia.

Amir’s wicketless display on the slow tracks of the UAE in the just concluded Asia Cup counted against him as the selectors announced the squad for the Australia series.

Wahab’s return to the squad seems justified given his ‘work ethic’ on the pitch.

As Arthur admitted, Wahab’s work ethic with the ball in hand cannot be doubted. Often he has bowled tireless spells on lifeless pitches and conjured something out of nothing.

His fiery spell against Shane Watson at the 2015 ICC World Cup clash against Australia is still fresh in the memory of fans.

His record in Tests held in the UAE speak for itself. In seven Tests Wahab has played on UAE soil, he has picked up 25 wickets at an average of just over 30. In comparison, Amir’s returns in the UAE are a dismal seven wickets from four games at an average of 56.42.

Wahab's fiery spell to Watson was a treat to watch for cricket fans.

Wahab’s fiery spell to Watson was a treat to watch for cricket fans.

Amir’s ineffectiveness on UAE pitches came to the fore in the Asia Cup. That might be the only reason behind Wahab’s return for now but the two Test series presents him with a chance to work his way back into contention for the 2019 World Cup in England.

“At the moment, being selected for the 2019 World Cup for Pakistan and performing well is my main, and only, priority at this time. There is also the 2020 World T20 on the horizon but I am firmly focused on playing in the 2019 World Cup at the moment,” he had told PakPassion.net in August.

Pakistan’s leading wicket taker in the 2015 World Cup, Wahab’s return to the side might not have come in the ODI format but the Australia Tests could be his chance to prove Arthur wrong with regards to his work ethic in training.

The 2019 World Cup is less than a year away but there is enough time for Wahab to make that dream come true.

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