Junaid upbeat about pace spearhead role
Junaid Khan, the Pakistan fast bowler, is confident that his prior county experience with Lancashire will help him lead the attack in the absence of Umar Gul during the Champions Trophy in England this summer.
"I played for Lancashire and learnt about the conditions in England which are helpful for swing bowling, so that will surely come good when I play in the Champions Trophy," Junaid told reporters at a camp for Pakistan seamers. "Learning is a never-ending process and in this camp Wasim [Akram] told me how to improve my inswingers and yorkers which are considered as the two best weapons for a left-arm bowler."
Junaid, 23, had a memorable 2011 stint with Lancashire in the Friends Life t20 and was set to appear for another season last year but couldn't due to international commitments. He last toured England in 2007, with the Pakistan Under-19 team, that included Mohammad Amir. He failed to make an impact, taking only one wicket in five unofficial one-dayers and a Test.
He is currently among the 23 fast bowlers working with Wasim Akram in Karachi in a 10-day specialised camp. Over the last one and half year, he has been the permanent fast-bowler for Pakistan. In the last twelve months, Junaid has emerged the second highest wicket-taker for Pakistan after Saeed Ajmal in all three formats, with 37 wickets at 22.18 in 15 matches.
"I am wary about the role (in absence of Gul) and will definitely do my best to cover for his absence, but he will be missed," Junaid said. "I know there are expectations and I am determined to continue my good work. Every player comes into the national team after performing at the local level and once they are in the team there are always expectations.
"Wasim told us how to show aggression towards a batsman and I am developing that. I was the most aggressive bowler on the tour to India and then South Africa." He picked up eight wickets in three ODIs against India earlier this year.
Akram, who recommended Junaid to Lancashire in 2011, applauded his talent. "He has the capacity to spearhead Pakistan's attack and after noticing his talent I recommended his name to Lancashire," said Wasim, who represented the county in the 1980s and 90s. "As a young boy he did well for Lancashire and his ability to learn will help him in the Champions Trophy."
Pakistan will play two one-day internationals each against Ireland and Scotland in May before competing in the Champions Trophy.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here