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Reinvigorated Junaid bidding to regain lost Pakistan spot

KARACHI: Since the long-awaited return of Mohammad Amir to international cricket almost at the end of 2015, one fast bowler with an established reputation has been forced to spend his time out of the Pakistan team.

Junaid Khan, a ‘veteran’ of 22 Tests, 52 One-day Internationals and nine Twenty20 Internationals, is bidding to regain his spot in the national side but a series of circumstances has compelled him to spend time on the sidelines.

Distraught at not playing for the country, Junaid even contemplated switching over to England in a bid to play international cricket.

In the recent edition of the Bangladesh Premier League, the left-armer grabbed 20 wickets for Khulna Titans to finish one behind tournament’s leading wicket-taker Dwayne Bravo who played a leading role in Dhaka Dynamites annexing the title.

Junaid, while talking to Dawn, said on Sunday he is not in any hurry but a strong showing in the ongoing One-day Cup for Departments would definitely help his cause to merit inclusion in the Pakistan team.

“Naturally, it hurts when you are no longer part of the national side. I had close to five years in international cricket when I led the pace-bowling department and Saeed Ajmal was our main spin weapon,” he said. “And then came the downslide with injuries and fitness issues cropping up and I found it tough to maintain the rhythm and form.”

The first cricketer from Abbottabad region to play international cricket, Junaid expresses satisfaction at the way he is getting back on the playing field.

“I feel reinvigorated since returning to full fitness. I’m pleased at the way my game has had progressed. I felt extremely good during the BPL and a couple of four-day [Quaid-i-Azam Trophy] matches I played before leaving for Bangladesh,” he remarked. “My belief is that the old Junaid Khan will be back to serve Pakistan team soon, Insha’Allah. I’m optimistic that the selectors will give me a chance to regain my spot because as a professional I’m doing everything in my domain to meet the demands of international cricket.”

Junaid was adamant that he can’t think of changing loyalties and would always serve Pakistan.

“My priorities remain with Pakistan since people know Junaid Khan because of Pakistan and the PCB. And if I had said something else then it was all in frustration,” the Matra-born fast bowler stressed.

Junaid, who celebrates his 27th birthday on Saturday (Dec 24), recalled the heartbreaking experience of missing the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand at the last minute.

“I suffered a knee injury during the camp when I slipped heavily just two days prior to the team leaving for New Zealand before the World Cup,” he remembers. “It was a devastating moment since I was looking forward to bowling in conditions where pace bowlers really enjoy.”

Junaid also remembered the first time he was picked for Pakistan. “Just can’t describe that feeling when I found my name in the squad for the 2011 World Cup. It was a proud moment for the Abbottabad region. And although I didn’t play any match of the tournament, it was a great learning curve for me as Shoaib Akhtar and Abdul Razzaq both were great help.”

Speaking of his role model and other sporting interests, Junaid said: “My role model in bowling is Wasim Akram and in lifestyle Imran Khan. Before taking up cricket I used to play football and volleyball at the school. And whenever time permits I love watching Manchester United in action.”

Junaid, however, was saddened at not being able to play the day-night Quaid-i-Azam Trophy final when his departmental side Wapda took on Habib Bank at the National Stadium.

“Flight schedule was reason for me not playing. I dearly wanted to play but got stuck up in Doha for 17 hours on way back from Dhaka and missed the start. However, I’m very happy that Wapda won the title for the first time,” he concluded.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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