Picked in the Champions Trophy squad alongside Saeed Ajmal and part-time options like Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, Abdur Rehman may not be a certainty in Pakistan’s first-choice XI. However, the left-arm spinner who last played an ODI in September 2012, said he was optimistic about his chances of playing in England because of his county experience.
“I am not concerned about being in the playing XI, as it is a decision they [coach and the captain] take after reading the conditions before the match,” Rehman said during the ongoing training camp in Abbottabad. “But spinners have a definite role in England. Every team has at least two spinners and they have as equal an opportunity to take wickets as fast bowlers. If I get a chance to play, I will definitely make a difference.”
Rehman, 33, had experience of English conditions during his short stint for Somerset last summer. In four championship matches he took 27 wickets at an average of 14.18. His best performance came against Worcestershire, when he picked up nine wickets in the first innings and finished with a 14-wicket haul in the match. He also took nine wickets in three CB40 matches, with a personal best of 6 for 16 against Nottinghamshire.
“I have gained plenty of experience from my county stint last year and this gives me an edge,” Rehman said. “Though I haven’t played international cricket in a long time, I have been practising regularly. I know I will play in the shadow of Saeed Ajmal, but I will try my best to contribute to the success of the team.”
Rehman made headlines last year when he was banned for 12 weeks after testing positive for cannabis during the county season. He completed his ban in December, but missed the tour to India and the Champions League T20 for his side Sialkot Stallions. He was part of the squad for the tour to South Africa but was not picked for any of the Tests or ODIs.
“During the South Africa tour, I didn’t play in the team as it was a decision taken by the team management and I have no hard feelings,” Rehman said. “The combination that played there was the best possible one. As far as I am concerned, I didn’t lose hope and was equally active in South Africa and here.”
On the third day of the Abbottabad camp, there were a few rain interruptions but the batsmen had ample practice. Hafeez chose to work on his back-foot punch, a shot that’s brought him a lot of runs but one he has struggled to play against seam bowling outside the subcontinent. Hafeez had an individual batting session with assistant coach Shahid Aslam and worked on facing swinging deliveries.
“I am working on my normal technique,” Hafeez said. “It’s not like we are here to do something special in these five to six days, but the main objective is to acclimatise with the conditions that we will face in the next one-and-a-half months.
“As players, we have to improve performances ourselves with the help of the support staff. We have a good blend of young and experienced players in the team who are capable of producing a good result.”