Riaz ready for England challenge

Relieved to be back in the national squad, Pakistan left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz said he was charged up to face England in the Test series, starting on January 17 in Dubai.

“It was a testing time for me while I was out of the Pakistan team. But I am just relieved now that I am back in the squad and I am raring to play against England,” he said.

The left-armer last played a Test match in the West Indies in May. The selectors ignored him for the tour to Zimbabwe in September, insisting they had given Riaz rest, and recalled him for the Tests against Sri Lanka but he was not played with the team management preferring to play young Junaid Khan in his place.

After the Test series, the selectors dropped Riaz for the one-day series and sent him home. He was also ignored for the tour to Bangladesh, with sources in the board confirming his sidelining was a result of the spot-fixing trial held in London involving Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer.

It was during the trial that the jury was told about Riaz’s name being mentioned not only by bookmaker Mazhar Majeed as being on his list of players who were involved in spot-fixing but also in a statement by former Pakistan team manager Khawaja Najam, who said that he had found Riaz with Azhar Majeed, the brother of the jailed Mazhar, in Salman Butt’s room along with Kamran Akmal.

Sources in the board confirmed that after consultations with its legal advisor, Riaz was sidelined from the team quietly as a precautionary measure.

The source also said the board had told Riaz clearly before selecting him for the England series that he needed to change his attitude and strictly adhere to the team’s code of conduct for players and avoid interacting with outsiders or people not cleared by the team management.

Riaz said he didn’t know the reason for being dropped but was always confident he would be cleared to play again. “I don’t want to go into the details of that all again because now I am just happy to be back in the national side. “It was a nagging situation for me when I was out and it’s obviously difficult when you are not part of the national team despite having the ability to represent it,” he said.

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