Derbyshire have agreed the signing of Wahab Riaz for this summer’s Vitality T20 Blast, an undertaking which the player hopes will help end his exile from the Pakistan side.
Wahab, 32, has not played for Pakistan since a Test against Sri Lanka in Dubai last October and was pointedly criticised by their coach, Mickey Arthur, when he was excluded from a training squad ahead of the forthcoming tour of England for which he has not been selected. Arthur rubbished Wahab’s work ethic in training and remarked that “he has not won us a game in two years.”
But Derbyshire believe they have secured a matchwinner, confidence that has grown further by the news that Wahab underwent surgery at the weekend for a long-standing sinus problem.
Wahab will be available for the bulk of Derbyshire’s fixtures, leaving in early August for the Caribbean Premier League where he will join Barbados Tridents.
His T20 record remains an impressive one. He finished the joint leading wicket-taker in the PSL with Faheem Asraf when he took 18 wickets for Peshewar Zalmi at an economy rate of less than seven an over. In all, he has taken 197 wickets in 167 T20 matches at an average of 7.11.
Derbyshire reached the quarter-finals of the Blast under the guidance last season of their specialist T20 coach, John Wright and Wahab’s proven ability, and his reputation for turning matches with hot spells, will lift their confidence that a repeat is not beyond them.
Whether Wahab can re-energise his Pakistan career under Arthur’s coaching tenure remains open to doubt.
Arthur, like many before him, is seeking “a high-performance culture within the Pakistan squad” and told ESPNcricinfo: “I expect players that have been around for a long time to be winning us games and setting standards . The guys need to push themselves and get out of their comfort zones.”
“I cannot fault Wahab when he has a ball in his hand but his work ethic around training is something [that] needs to be looked at. I am changing the culture in this Pakistan environment and I am not interested in players doing just the bare minimum.”
Even during his last Test, against Sri Lanka in Dubai, Wahab wrecked the top order and nearly transformed a Test that had seemed lost. But the last time he played an ODI was nearly a year ago in India during the Champions Trophy when he returned galling figures of 8.4-0-87-0.