Lahore: Relieved to be back in the national squad, Pakistan left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz said he is all charged up to face England in the upcoming 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 Pakistan squad and I am rearing to play against England," he said.
The left armer last played for Pakistan in 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 a rest and recalled him for the Tests against Sri Lanka but he was not played in Test, 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 Amir.
It was during the trial that the jury was told about his 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 the former Pakistan team manager, Khawaja Najam who said that he had found Wahab with Azhar Majeed, the brother of jailed Mazhar Majeed in the room of Salman Butt 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 fact is that the board was not comfortable playing Wahab after the spot-fixing trial and decided to take precautionary measures until it was convinced he was clean."
The source also said the board had told Wahab 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
"The board is now satisfied he didn't have any involvement in the spot-fixing scandal but have instructed the team management including security manager, Colonel Waseem to keep a close watch on him," the source said.
Riaz made it clear he didn't know the reason for being dropped from the side but was always confident he would be cleared to play again.
"I don't want to go into the details of all that 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 all the ability to represent it.''
"But what I know now is that I am ready for yet another stint as I have been playing a lot of domestic cricket and the stint with English county, Kent this year has also helped me become an improved bowler. My time with Kent will help me in the series against England,'' he said.
The 26-year old will be facing stiff competition from the other left-armer Junaid Khan, who was impressive in the Tests in Zimbabwe and against Sri Lanka and has been named in the squad for the England series subject to his being cleared of any fitness problems.
Riaz said he had been working hard on his fitness and would try to bowl fast and also use reverse swing and other variations with the old ball in the coming series.
"I also want to contribute with the bat," he said.
The pacer said he was prepared for a tough series and would be ready for anything.
"I just want to help the team continue its winning streak. It is good to be part of the team again," he said.
Pakistan coach, Mohsin Khan said that Wahab was picked for the upcoming series because of his ability to reverse swing the old ball at good pace, which would be a good weapon on the pitches in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.