On Monday 20th May 2019, the chief selector of Pakistan cricket team, Inzamam-ul-Haq announced Wahab's surprise return, as well as the less surprising additions of Mohammad Amir and Asif Ali, to Pakistan's 15-man squad for the ICC World Cup 2019 team.
Junaid Khan, Faheem Ashraf and Abid Ali are the players who were unable to make it to the final squad after their inclusion in the provisional squad announced a month ago.
Wahab’s surprise selection
Wahab's last ODI appearance is traced back on June 4, 2017, in the group stage game against India in the Champions Trophy, when Pakistan suffered a heavy defeat. He wasn't a part of the playing XI for Pakistan in their run to the trophy following that reversal.
Wahab Riyaz has played 17 List A games since then, took 27 wickets at an average of 28.40 with an economy rate of 5.18. Ten of those wickets came in five games this year, at an impressive average of 20.70 and economy of 4.60, all this majestic performance in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's title run in the Pakistan Cup 50-over tournament bagged him the ticket to the world cup squad of his nation.
More than the numbers, Wahab’s ability to generate reverse swing and the poor bowling performance of Pakistan in the recent England series are the factors that appealed on his behalf to the selectors to re-think their decisions.
Inzamam, in a press conference, said that, whatever is planned, the team always keeps the room to review it as well. If Wahab was not the first pick in the squad, that does not mean, that he has been completely discarded from the scenario.
He added that, Wahab was not close in the 23 Probables listed for the World Cup a month ago, but no one in the current squad is in without a reason, the main criteria in bringing Wahab back was his ability to reverse swing the ball. Keeping in mind the pitches of England, the Pakistani selectors have reviewed their decision.
The Comeback of Amir
The attacking pacer Mohammad Amir was unable to play in any of the ODI’s against England. He missed four out of five games in the England Tour due to chicken pox, but Pakistan’s bowling lineup has suffered a lot in the series, it was almost certain that Amir would make it to the final 15 for the World Cup.
Pakistan conceded 373/3, 359/4, 341/7 and 351/9 in the four ODI’s that completed. Coach Mickey Arthur pointed out to the fielding lapses as the team’s biggest concern after the series ended, but also added that the bowling has been average.
In his last ten ODI appearances, Amir has picked up just two wickets at an unappealing average of 148.50, though he has usually kept things tight. In 14 ODIs since the final of the Champions Trophy, his economy rate has been an excellent 4.58. Inzamam added that, if people would analyze the series, it was not only the Pakistani bowlers who suffered the fury of batsman, it was the other way round too. Hence, Pakistan was in the need of experienced bowlers and Amir was very much ahead of every bowler Pakistan has to fit in the current scenario.
When asked about the exclusion of Junaid and Faheem from the squad, Inzamam said that, their exclusion doesn’t mean that they are not worthy or capable, but Amir and Wahab would be more suitable for these conditions and hence, they are selected in the Pakistan world cup squad 2019.
Pakistan is, however, missing a reserve wicketkeeper behind Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, but Inzamam confirmed that Mohammad Rizwan would stay on in England and fill in, in case of an injury.
Pakistan World Cup 2019 Squad: Sarfaraz Ahmed (C & Wk), Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Asif Ali, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riyaz and Mohammad Hasnain.