Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis believes Mohammad Amir‘s return to the team will spark competition amongst the bowlers and liven up intensity as they gear up for next month’s T20 series against England. He said Amir’s retirement from Test cricket “hurt at the time” but Pakistan had moved past it, and said his recall did not equate to the left-armer being indispensable for the team, insisting no Pakistan player could lay claim to that status.
In a media interaction, Younis was intensely questioned on the inclusion of Amir just weeks after the bowler had ruled himself out of the tour owing to the impending birth of his second child. Pakistan had already made arrangements for replacements when Amir earlier excused himself; nevertheless, after the birth of his daughter last week, chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq approached Amir for his availability and – should he return two negative Covid-19 tests – is set to link up with the squad later this week.
“We do have a lot of bowlers here and we don’t need them all,” admitted Younis, “but since it’s a camp and we have plenty of time, it’s better to have a look at what everyone can do. It’s not just about this series but also about going forward. The idea is to have a better idea about our players and a clear picture about who we’d like to take along. Amir is an experienced fast bowler and was in our white-ball plans, and we are just utilising the chance to have as many ready bowlers as we can.
“The doors are never shut for anyone even if they have played for Pakistan or [are] yet to play. He [Amir] is a seasoned bowler and at times it did hurt when he left Test cricket at a crucial time and we all expressed our displeasure on it. But we have moved on and we have to see where he stands. If he’s up to the mark, then we will pick him and play him. But nobody is indispensable. I never thought we couldn’t function without one cricketer. That’s the wrong way to think.”
Since Amir quit Tests at the age of 27, Pakistan brought in a number of young quick bowlers, including Shaheen Afridi, who has become a mainstay in the side and Naseem Shah, while Mohammad Abbas has emerged as a pivotal senior option. Mohammad Hasnain, Usman Khan Shinwari, Musa Khan and Imran Khan have all played a part, particularly since Wahab Riaz joined Amir in red-ball retirement last year.
Younis said the decision to include Amir wasn’t made on impulse and wouldn’t hurt any of the young players in the side. “In a way it’s actually good that he came and young players can actually learn from him,” he said. “But we will prioritise those who are doing well, and they are definitely going to get a go. With 29 players here, there’s a good healthy competition and that’s a great luxury.
“There should be competition; that actually helps the team. If you go back to the 90s, Wasim [Akram], me, Shoaib [Akhtar] and many others around [were] pushing hard for international selection, and that is where teams really blossom.”
The Pakistan players and support staff arrived in England on June 28, several weeks before the start of the first match to be able to train in the country, as well as complete the mandatory quarantine period for all foreigners travelling to the UK.
The touring party is living in a biosecure bubble where they will not interact with anyone outside of the group, and regular tests for Covid-19 will be conducted on the tour. The three Tests and three T20Is will all be played behind closed doors.