One of the few highlights for Pakistan during the Test series against Sri Lanka was the performance of left-arm fast-bowler Junaid Khan.
While Pakistan lost their first Test series since August 2010, Junaid’s comeback and his impressive show on Sri Lankan pitches, which offered very little help to the pacemen, won him accolades from the cricket fraternity.
Junaid, who was making a comeback following back-to-back injuries, ended as the most successful paceman in Sri Lanka, claiming 14 wickets at an average of just over 21 including two five-wicket hauls. The fast-bowler’s performance also comes at a time when the team lacks a quality paceman with Umar Gul’s inconsistent show being a major concern.
However, behind that impressive show was nervousness and anxiety that had gripped the 22-year-old when he stepped out on the field. The left-armer said he had overcome a lot of pressure to do well in the three-match Test series.
“A lot of people started discussing my situation,” Junaid told The Express Tribune. “They started predicting my future due to repeated injuries at such a young age. I was positive but remained under a lot of pressure and was scared before the series.
“I had also heard of Sri Lanka conditions that don’t favour fast-bowlers like they help the spinners. So all this made the return very difficult.”
The 22-year old, who made his international debut last year, has been unable to become a permanent member of the team due to various injuries. He sustained an abdominal injury during the One-Day International (ODI) series against Sri Lanka last year and later had to nurse a knee problem that kept him out of the Asia Cup.
However, the fast-bowler remained optimistic, adding that he was fortunate to have good coaches around him who helped him make an impression.
“My local coach in Swabi helped be a lot. Then Shahid Aslam at the National Cricket Academy and [Dav] Whatmore during the tour remained a very good mentor. Whatmore’s advice really helped me during the Tests.
“I also kept tips from Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in my mind which I got in my early days.”
‘Not over the moon after success’
Meanwhile, Junaid said he was keeping his head on the ground and was focusing on future assignments. “I’m aware that success can sometimes derail a young player. But I will remain focused. I am young and there is always room to learn. Apart from the good performance, my aim is to stay away from controversies.”
Aims to cement place in
While he was just selected for the Test series in Sri Lanka, the fast-bowler said he was aiming to cement a place in all three formats. “It’s my dream to become a permanent member of the team in all formats. I’ve been unlucky in ODIs so far but I can perform in limited-overs cricket including Twenty20s.
“I am hoping that I get selected for the series against Australia but if I’m overlooked I will continue working hard in Tests.”
“The performance of young players like Junaid Khan, Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq has assured Pakistan of a good future. In difficult situations these players performed well for us.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2012.
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