What can Wahab Riaz offer in England?
Wahab Riaz is back and he himself mentioned that a much needed break from red ball cricket helped him. In his recent media talk, he has categorically ensured his availability for white and red ball formats with focusing on only one series at a time. He might not be a part in next test series, therefore, he talked wise, safe and positive during the media briefing.
As far as Wahab’s record in England is concerned, it is not much of a wow factor in it but yes he has experience of playing the big pressure games in there. He has represented Derbyshire and other county teams so he knows the conditions well. ICC Champions Trophy, ICC Cricket World Cup, Domestic T20 tournament and the famous spot-fixing saga were the main cricketing events that he had lived. He also has a 5-wicket haul in UK which was acclaimed on his test debut. Wahab has 17 wickets in 5 Test matches in England with an average of 32.64 which is better than his career average and career best bowling figures of him were also achieved in England against England with 5/63.
ODIs haven’t been very productive for him in England, although, his recent world cup performances showed a new Wahab Riaz to the world. Limited overs performance has been a decent one in recent times, in fact better than his career performance. The World Cup 2019 in last year was by far his best world cup out of 3 world cups he played in 2011, 2015 and 2019. He was able to take 13 wickets in 8 matches at an average of under 30 (better than the ODI career average) and also made 2 useful contributions with the bat against Australia and Afghanistan. The reverse sweep for a 4 and a slog sweep for 6 off Rashid Khan were vital in Pakistan’s chances for remaining alive in the world cup. In T20Is, he has 3 wickets in 2 matches. Furthermore, his batting average in all three formats in England is also overtaken by his career average.
Now let us take into consideration, the selection of Wahab Riaz by Misbah ul Haq for the tour of England despite keeping him out of central contract. Experience is key on away tours and among all the upcoming and squad bowlers of the team, Wahab is the only one who has got experience of playing in UK. The pace attack including Shaheen, Shinwari, Rauf, and Hasnain are travelling to England as test players for the first time. Faheem Ashraf, Imran Khan, Sohail Khan and Abbas have a one tour each but an express fast bowler who can turn the pace on opposition was missing. Moreover, Wahab wasn’t shown a positive response by the previous management as said by himself, therefore, he took retirement rather than having a break as it isn’t given in Pakistan’s cricketing structure. But now there is a comfortable environment for him with Misbah, Waqar and Younis among the coaching staff.
With new rules taking place in test matches, Pakistan might need a 5 bowler attack and therefore, Wahab can play a vital role by sharing the new ball, coming back with an older ball for reverse swing, testing batsmen with sheer pace when nothing is happening and sometimes can chip in with some useful runs. With the lack of availability of Mohammad Amir and any other experienced fast bowler, this might be a new turn in Wahab’s career. His domestic T20 performances in PSL wasn’t bad either as he also captained his franchise which shows he has a game sense as well. With all these added features and his decent performances in England, he can surely help Pakistan to may win their first test series on UK’s soil since 1996. Misbah and team management might go in with him as the 2nd choice bowler for tests if not the 1st.
Wahab Riaz, now has the time to turn the tables around by performing well in tests. However, he still has a couple of 2 -3 good years in himself for serving Pakistan at the international level.