Apr 262013

Junaid Khan is all set to lead Pakistan’s pace attack in the absence of Umar Gul in the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy, which runs from June 6-23. The 23 year old is hopeful that his county experience with Lancashire will do him good in the English conditions, “I played for Lancashire and learnt about the conditions in England which are helpful for swing bowling, so that will surely come good when I play in the Champions Trophy”.

Born in Matra, KhyberPakhtunkhawa, Pakistan this left-arm fast bowler was brought in as Sohail Tanvir’s replacement for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. Failed to make debut during the global event, Khan later in April that year toured West Indies where he made T20I and ODI debuts for Pakistan. In his first T20I and ODI debuts, Khan had the figures of 0/15 in 2 overs and 0/49 in 10 overs respectively. Four months after he had made his limited overs debut, Khan in September made Test debut for Pakistan against Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe. Junaid took 1 wicket for 65 runs in his first Test.

“Juni” didn’t take long to impress. He in his second Test in October 2011 against Sri Lanka picked up 6/121 at the economy of 2.60 on the flat surface on Abu Dhabi. Khan played 3 Tests and an ODI on this tour. He took 12 wickets in three Tests and one wicket in only ODI.

Till this time Junaid Khan was only capable of taking the ball away from the right handed batsmen. In the summers of 2011, on the recommendation of Waseem Akram, Lancashire signed Junaid Khan. Khan seemed as a totally different bowler bowling at 140+ kmph. On his impressive stint with Lancashire, Khan took 12 wickets in eight matches.

Khan mastered the art of in-swing bowling in the summers of 2012 when Pakistan toured Sri Lanka. His two five wicket hauls in helped him to get 14 wickets in three Tests.  After taking 5 for 73 on a flat SSC pitch in a Test against Sri Lanka, Junaid spoke of how he was inspired by Wasim’s spell in the 1992 World Cup final, where his two wickets in successive deliveries turned the game Pakistan’s way. Junaid said he had watched the Youtube video of it and Wasim himself had passed on tips on reverse swing. Junaid found appreciable reverse swing in that Test to put Sri Lanka under pressure. He ripped through the Sri Lankan top order and Sri Lankan batsmen in the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakarra, and Dilshan had no answer to his in-dippers.

But still cricket followers were not aware of Junaid Khan’s potential. The true representation of his skills and ability were his eight wickets for Pakistan on Indian tour. Khan’s scorching in-swingers to Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and his angled deliveries to Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma in first ODI made Indian batting lineup look helpless. He consistently troubled Indian top order and dismissed Kohli in all three ODIs. On his return to Pakistan, Khan gave credit of his bowling to Wasim Akram and said, “I have been a bowler who has relied on bowling outswingers consistently at a good pace. It was Wasim bhai (Akram) who told me to develop the incoming delivery which would be my weapon against the Indian right-handers”.

Khan, right now is attending a 10-day training camp under Wasim Akram. “Learning is a never-ending process and in this camp Wasim [Akram] told me how to improve my in-swingers and yorkers which are considered as the two best weapons for a left-arm bowler.” He is the second highest wicket taker for Pakistan after Saeed Ajmal in last twelve months. Khan has picked up 37 wickets in 15 matches across all three formats. Wasim Akram talking to media during the training camp has shown trust in Junaid Khan and believes like Junaid Khan believes that his county stint will benefit him in the upcoming 50-over global event, “He has the capacity to spearhead Pakistan’s attack and after noticing his talent I recommended his name to Lancashire, as a young boy he did well for Lancashire and his ability to learn will help him in the Champions Trophy.”

Khan is aware of the expectations the Pakistani fans have from him. “I know there are expectations and I am determined to continue my good work. Every player comes into the national team after performing at the local level and once they are in the team there are always expectations.” He has hinted that the absence of Umar Gul will be felt in the Champions Trophy but, is eager to fill in his boots. “I am wary about the role (in absence of Gul) and will definitely do my best to cover for his absence, but he will be missed.” Junaid Khan is yet to play an ODI in England.

The writer tweets at https://twitter.com/ahsannagi

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