Beating Sri Lanka: Junaid must play today!
Pakistan take on Sri Lanka in the teams’ first high-profile clash after both disposed of minnows Kenya and Canada with ease. The two teams face each other in Colombo where the pitch offers more assistance to the bowlers than other venues in Sri Lanka. And no matter how much both former world champions want to rely on spinners throughout their campaigns, fast-bowlers will play a crucial role in the campaign.
Pakistan had a three-man pace attack in their first match comprising Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq. But that was because the pitch in Hambantota was known to be a spinners’ heaven. Colombo will be different and it makes sense to have a three-pronged pace attack with all-rounder Razzaq being the fourth seamer.
I’ve seen the left-arm fast-bowler Junaid Khan at the first-class level and he should be in the playing-eleven for this crunch match against Sri Lanka. This is the time to give that young guy a chance to prove his worth after all the hype that is around him following his late selection for the World Cup.
He’s a talented bowler and with the World Cup still in its infancy, Pakistan can try him out. It won’t be a gamble but a good strategy ahead of the crunch matches in the knock-out rounds (if Pakistan go that far).
To give him a chance to use his talent in a high-profile match will test his temperament and train him for the future. The young bowler is not there for a joy ride but to gain valuable experience and this is how the team management needs to instill that in him as soon as they get a chance.
So, I think Junaid should share the new ball with Akhtar - provided the experienced campaigner is fit to play another match given the recent news about him and seeing him bowl just five overs.
The right-arm left-arm combination will bother the Sri Lankan batsmen and Gul can be introduced as a first-change. Gul can utilise the old ball to good effect, especially when reverse swing comes into effect as the ball gets older.
The reason why Wahab Riaz – another Pakistan’s left-armer in the pace artillery – should sit out is because Junaid needs to learn now. Pakistan should not confine themselves to one strategy. Junaid moves the new ball more and it’s an added advantage.
The best thing about this is that Pakistan have a lot of options for matches to come. They have spinners – of all types – and fast-bowlers that bowl from gentle speed to tear-away pace. There’s absolutely no harm in trying out Junaid. If he does not perform then there are alternatives that the management can fall back on at will.
The captain can use his bowling to good effect and Mohammad Hafeez – although an average player and not a match-winner – can come in handy.
And while Saeed Ajmal may have to warm the bench for one more match, Pakistan need to try out some players now. The sooner these players get the much-needed experience, the better it will be for Pakistan’s World Cup campaign given that their opponents will be ruthless when the quarter-finals approach later on this month.
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