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'Disappointed over England tour snub given my experience of county cricket' – Junaid Khan
Exclusive Interview

'Disappointed over England tour snub given my experience of county cricket' – Junaid Khan

Pakistan paceman Junaid Khan has expressed his disappointment over not being included in the team for the forthcoming Test and T20I series against England.

Junaid, one of the members of Pakistan's Champions Trophy-winning squad in 2017, was not considered by the selectors for a spot in the extended 29-man contingent named for the tour.

Although Junaid's appearances in the international arena have become rather sporadic over the past few years, he believes he could have added plenty of value to the national side given his vast experience of county cricket in England.

"I was quite disappointed at being left out of the England tour since there was talk of selecting seniors and experienced players for the series," he said in an exclusive chat with Cricingif.

"Among the current lot, I have played the most county cricket whether it is with Lancashire, Middlesex, or the tours I've done with both Pakistan and junior sides," he declared.

Junaid's exemplary record in the county circuit speaks volumes of his calibre as he has found tremendous success with Lancashire in the shortest format.

The left-arm speedster has picked 44 wickets in 28 T20s with the club, indicating his white-ball prowess.

Recalling his time in England playing for Lancashire, Junaid was keen on emphasising the positive effects of the county spell. He commented on how the whole experience was a huge learning curve for him in the nascent stages of his career and he grew to be a better bowler after being coached by someone like Peter Moores.

"When I entered the national side in 2011, my performance wasn't very special but when I went for a county stint, I worked hard on my skills. I had gone to England with the mindset that I want to learn and improve my abilities," he said.

"Former England coach Peter Moores, who was coaching Lancashire at the time, was very helpful and would often sit with me for extended periods to analyse my performances."

"His tips had a major impact on me, which is evident from my increase in pace following my county stint as I was subsequently touching the 140-145 kph mark," Junaid claimed.

'Being in and out of the team disrupts your progress'

Junaid's journey in international cricket has had its fair share of ebbs and flows with his career not helped by a lack of ample opportunities of late.

Having made his debut in 2011, Junaid immediately became the mainstay of Pakistan's pace attack and was their strike bowler until an unfortunate injury ruled him out of the 2015 World Cup.

Since then, Junaid's quest for cementing a permanent spot in the team has been a major struggle with some critics pointing out his waning pace and fitness.

Despite all these doubts, Junaid still reigns as Pakistan's most prolific wicket-taker among pacers from his debut onwards while second-placed Wahab Riaz has picked seven wickets less than the 30-year-old in this time.

In Tests, only Mohammad Abbas has surpassed Junaid's impressive tally of 71 wickets in the last nine years.

"From 2011 to 2015, I was a regular member of the team and my record in Tests and ODIs during this period was outstanding. The reason behind this was that I was being given a proper chance," he said.

"After this, I found it hard to recover my form following troubles with injury as I could not live up to the high expectations of the people.

"Obviously, you require some time to regather your rhythm coming back from an injury which is why I failed in the Bangladesh and Sri Lanka tours and I can't blame anyone but myself for that," Junaid explained.

The veteran seamer also bemoaned the possibility of favouritism or politics at play that has continued to deprive him of the chance to resume national duty.

 Junaid took four wickets in his only match in the 2018 Asia Cup ©Associated Press

Junaid took four wickets in his only match in the 2018 Asia Cup ©Associated Press

"I did not get enough opportunities after that maybe due to likes, dislikes or the fact that I didn't belong to a major city," he stated.

Junaid condemned the fickle nature of his place in the team by giving examples of his frequent omissions from the cricketing set-up.

"If you examine my record, you will see that I only played one match in Asia Cup where I picked four wickets and before that in the Australia tour [in 2016], I was dropped for one game but performed well in the rest of the matches.

"In the Champions Trophy, I was the second-leading wicket-taker [for Pakistan] but I was not picked for the first game despite registering five wickets in the warm-up match."

He highlighted that being constantly scrutinized while making a comeback to the side often had negative consequences owing to the undue pressure put on the player.

"As a player, I feel inclined to say that being in and out of the team disrupts your progress.

"When you are making a comeback to the team, you are faced with more pressure as compared to your debut since you have to perform well and you've already exhausted your energy playing domestic cricket," he concluded.