'Priority is to play for Pakistan' - Wahab Riaz on potential Test comeback
Wahab Riaz has stated his return to Test cricket stems from his desire to represent Pakistan at the highest level given the "unusual circumstances" created by the coronavirus pandemic.
The left-arm speedster has been picked as part of a large pool of 29 players for the tour comprising three Tests and three T20Is. While Wahab may not feature in the list of first-choice options for the Tests, his availability for the five-day matches hinges upon any unfortunate injury to a regular pacer.
“The PCB called me and enquired whether I will be available to play Test cricket if required on a replacement basis so I straight away said yes because my priority is to play for Pakistan,” Wahab told reporters on Monday.
Delving into the details surrounding his exit from the red-ball format last year, Wahab revealed that the PCB had played a positive role in allowing him some time off from the game instead of an abrupt retirement – a route chosen by fellow left-arm seamer Mohammad Amir.
Related: Amir announces retirement from Tests
“When I had communicated my decision to the PCB last year that I will not play Test cricket, they suggested me to take some time off and reconsider this.
"Now, the PCB contacted me under the current unusual circumstances where no player can be replaced [on the tour], which is why I have decided to make myself available for the Tests.”
“I am not here to take the easy way out and refuse the PCB’s request when they are in need of fast bowlers. We are professional enough to know how to carry ourselves in each format and for that purpose, I believe I am ready to fulfill the responsibilities if required."
Wahab felt his decision to reconsider his Test hiatus could set a precedent for the newer crop of cricketers and drive home the point that representing Pakistan remains the ultimate goal despite not being included in the central contract list.
"This is a great opportunity for our youngsters and as a group, we have to back them. Even if they are unable to perform on the tour, we have to keep supporting them because they are the future of Pakistan cricket.”
“I have also set an example with this decision since it could serve as an example that Pakistan is the priority. I can share my experience with the younger lot as I have played a lot of cricket in England.”
'Not satisfied with my Test record'
A seasoned veteran in limited-overs internationals, Wahab's ordinary numbers in Test cricket do not give a flattering illustration of his abilities.
Known for his penchant for swift yorkers and being a wily exponent of reverse swing, Wahab has managed just 83 wickets in his 27-Test career at an average over 34.
He admitted his shortcomings in the conventional format but pointed out that the bulk of his appearances came on placid surfaces unhelpful for fast bowling in the UAE.
Wahab played his last Test in 2018 against Australia ©Getty Images
“I am not satisfied at all with myself, you have to be very honest. The beauty of Pakistan cricket is fast bowlers that are constantly competing against each other. You thus have to be a consistent performer to be able to play for Pakistan.
"From 2010-2019, we played our home Test matches in UAE where there is not a lot of assistance for fast bowlers. Spinners have dominated in those conditions and if you look at the pacers, they have contributed very little there."
"But now it is time for me to leave behind a legacy in Pakistan cricket," he added.
Wahab also blamed his fickle spot in the team for his mediocre form as Test caps became more sporadic for him in recent years. He said his uncertain place in the side left him pondering over his Test future, eventually leading him to quit red-ball cricket altogether with the management intervening and helping him settle for a less extreme step.
“Between 2016 and 2019, I played Tests only in patches. Even when I performed against Sri Lanka in a Test match, I was not a part of the team on the next tour.
"Then I was picked for Australia’s tour to UAE but was sent back midway through the series. It was the decision taken by the management at that time. I thought maybe I am not capable of continuing Test cricket and told the higher authorities that I would instead focus on white-ball cricket," he said.
"Thankfully, the then-management convinced me not to fully retire and take time off from the format. Because of that break, I am now making a comeback to Pakistan’s Test team and I didn’t hastily take a wrong decision that I would have regretted.”