Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Ayub keen to impress
Faisal Iqbal, a middle-order batsman who is set to make his third comeback to the Pakistan team when they tour Sri Lanka this summer, is eager to cement his place in the Test side once and for all this time. Meanwhile Mohammad Ayub, who is set to debut on the same tour, is wary of the 'tight competition' in Pakistan's middle order.
Iqbal has played 26 Tests across the past decade, the last of which was in January 2010 and, he said, it took mental discipline to keep him going. "I have been surviving only because of my mental toughness," Iqbal told ESPNcricinfo. "In the past I have been playing mainly as a replacement player [in the national team], which is why I wasn't able to cement a permanent place. But now I think I can make it."
This recall has been triggered by Iqbal's steady performance in the Quaid-e-Azam 2011-12 season, where he averaged 46.87. He also scored two hundreds in the two games he played for Sind in the Faysal Bank Pentangular Cup, aggregating 263 runs at an average of 87.66 in the tournament.
"The last two years have been tough but I kept my fingers crossed and was optimistic, believing that Pakistan's doors are never shut on any active player," Iqbal said. "I kept my fitness levels high, never experimented with my position and scored all the runs as a specialist middle-order batsman."
Being the nephew of former Pakistan captain Javed Miandad only added to the pressure on him, Iqbal said, insisting that he didn't take any shortcuts as a result of this connection. "Being a nephew of Miandad, you [journalists] knew very well how my cricket suffered. It's very tough to cope with such pressure.
"I was a soft target for many and my selection was criticised on grounds of nepotism though my performance was a convincing one. All these things were setbacks to my career but at the same time I was getting mentally strong."
Ayub, 32, has been close to national selection for several years, having been among the top performers on the domestic circuit and having scored heavily since 2009. He was in contention even before the series against England in the UAE earlier this year.
"My performance was satisfactory for the last few years but being selected for national side wasn't in my control," Ayub told ESPNcricinfo. "Though my call-up to the national squad is a bit late, I think the chance being offered to me is fair enough and I am happy. I have been disappointed before and was hurt too each time I was snubbed, but remained optimistic that I will be rewarded for my hard work."
"The process of learning has never stopped. My cricket has matured, the key to my success is the experience I have got from playing an ample amount of first-class cricket."
Ayub understands that the Pakistan Test team is currently in good shape and he doesn't have too much time to establish himself. "Expectations are high and the competition is tight, but have faced a similar situation for many years. You have competition at every level. I have worked very hard and I deserved this chance, and I will live up to the expectations."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent