ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 / News
World Cup 2011
New faces in familiar surroundings
February 21, 2011
Pakistan may have brought some new talent to parade at the World Cup, but two men who could make a name for themselves, arrive with knowledge of conditions in Sri Lanka, where they play all their group matches.
Opener Ahmed Shehzad and fast bowler Junaid Khan - who has yet to play an international - are expected to have an impact for Pakistan through the tournament. Big things especially are expected from the feisty, confident Shehzad, a young man not afraid to play his shots.
Shehzad debuted for Pakistan in the 2009 one-day series against Australia, after working his way through the Under-19 and A team set-ups. The brief blossoming of Salman Butt meant that Shehzad didn't return until the recent tour of New Zealand. A Twenty20 international half-century and a classy one-day century brought him to Sri Lanka in good form and he built on it with a century in the warm-up game against Bangladesh in Dhaka.
"My form is really good at the moment and I hope to carry it on," he said after practice on Monday, ahead of Pakistan's opening game against Kenya on Wednesday, in Hambantota. "Cricket is a funny game and if you stop working hard, then it leaves you. But we're working hard with Vicky bhai [coach Waqar Younis] and Inti bhai [manager Intikhab Alam]. Shahdi [Afridi] bhai is really backing us, and he shares his experience with us, so there's lots of things to learn from them."
Shehzad toured Sri Lanka in the summer of 2009 with Pakistan A and, in five limited-overs games, scored a 96-ball 130, 39 and 91 against an attack that included Lasith Malinga, Thisara Perera and Farveez Maharoof. He scored a couple of fifties in the two unofficial Tests as well, form that has left him confident ahead of the biggest tournament in the game.
"I've been here with the Under-19 and A sides and performed against strong Sri Lankan attacks including Malinga and others. I have that experience and hope to use it this time as well. I just want to score against whichever team I play against and help the side win."
The only player in the squad with experience of playing at the new stadium in Hambantota is Junaid. As part of Pakistan's A side, he played an unofficial Test here in 2010, notching up match figures of 9 for 83, despite losing a low-scoring match.
Junaid was a late replacement for fellow left-armer Sohail Tanvir, just reward for a couple of seasons spent on the fringes of Pakistan selection. "It's a lucky ground for me for that match and another against Sri Lanka's Champions League team, against whom I took five wickets," he said.
Junaid emerged on the junior level at the same time as Mohammad Amir, though he is a vastly different bowler. Wasim Akram has helped him during several pace camps, but it is the other Khan, Imran, who he looks up to. "Wasim helped me out there quite a bit with tips and is obviously an influence but when I started cricket I used to watch Imran Khan videos on Youtube."
Junaid played in the warm-up loss to England in Dhaka, taking three wickets. Depending on the conditions - and given that Shoaib Akhtar is not yet fully fit - he is likely to form part of the pace attack alongside Umar Gul and Wahab Riaz.