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Resurgent Wahab determined to redeem himself at the World Cup

After earning a surprising call-up to Pakistan's squad for the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, fast bowler Wahab Riaz wants to make his opportunity count.

Wahab hasn't played one-day cricket for Pakistan since the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. The left-armer even had his work ethic questioned by the head coach Mickey Arthur, who had criticised Wahab for having lost his match-winning abilities.

But after rediscovering his form in the Pakistan Cup, the country's domestic 50-over competition, where he was named Bowler of the Series for his season-topping 10 wickets in five matches, Wahab said that he was always fully prepared for the World Cup, though his chances of making the squad had appeared to be slim.  

"I had been having dreams that I am meeting Mickey Arthur and Sarfraz Ahmad. Sometimes they would reject me and sometimes they would pick me."

Wahab Riaz

"I even had dreams I was meeting Mickey Arthur and Sarfaraz Ahmad, and sometimes they would pick me, and reject me at other times," he said. "Around ten days ago, I had a dream that Inzi bhai [Inzamam-ul-Haq, the chief selector] gave me a call and told me that I have been selected and this is my last chance. It was exactly how it happened when I was called and told about the decision. It is nothing less than make or break for a player who gets an opportunity to play in the World Cup."

Wahab's selection was also partially a result of Pakistan's bowlers performing poorly in the series against England. In three of the four completed games, Pakistan allowed England to make in excess of 350, and on one other occasion, failed to defend a score of 340. It prompted the Inzamam-ul-Haq-led selection committee to turn to the left-armer's experience - he also had a stint with Derbyshire in the T20 Blast. 

"I have worked hard and matured as a bowler in the last two years," Wahab said. "I have learnt a lot and the results are visible to everyone. You can't judge anyone on the basis of one match. I am a bowler and there are chances that I may concede 60, 70 or 80 runs, and it has happened in the past as well. But that doesn't mean that I lost my skills and ability."

Wahab was Pakistan's most successful bowler at the previous edition of the World Cup, in 2015, with 16 wickets from seven matches. He produced a match-winning performance - 54*, followed by a spell of 4/45 - in a must-win game against Zimbabwe. In the quarter finals against Australia, he delivered one of the great World Cup spells, dismissing David Warner and Michael Clarke, and then stunning Shane Watson with a series of short balls.

Reminiscing that spell, Wahab said: "Since the pitches are placid and conditions are batting-conducive, it becomes necessary to have an aggressive approach, or else the batsmen will dominate you. If a batsman demeans me, I will do what I did that day."

An expert at reverse swing, Wahab reckoned the skill would be key in English conditions. "Variations and reverse swing are key in the death overs. With the conditions dry and wickets hard in England, there will be reverse swing and the team that does it better will have the advantage. I have expertise in reverse swing, so I will try to restrict the flow of runs in the final few overs."

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