Although Pakistan’s World Cup campaign ended disappointingly with their loss to Australia in the quarter-finals, Wahab Riaz emerged as Pakistan’s hero, along with Mohammad Irfan. He was Pakistan’s leading wicket taker in the tournament, with 16 wickets from seven matches.
He bowled the fastest delivery of the tournament, which was recorded at 154.5kmph. His magical spell in the quarter- final — which could’ve led to Pakistan’s victory only if Rahat had taken that catch — earned him praise from many great players.
Wahab spoke to ‘The News On Sunday’ after the team’s return to Pakistan, in which he talked about his childhood, his struggle and his transformation from “a BATTA bowler to WHAT A BOWLER.” Excerpts:
The News On Sunday: How was the World Cup 2015 for you? Satisfactory or disappointing?
Wahab Riaz: Personally, I’ve achieved the target I set for myself. I promised myself that I would take at least 15 wickets in the tournament. Allhamdolillah, I got 16. But, yeah, it was disappointing that we couldn’t win the World Cup.
TNS: There were images of you weeping after the defeat against Australia. Why were you so emotional?
WR: It was a dream shattered. We were so near in 2011, and again we were good enough in 2015. The World Cup comes after four years and I was so eager to win it for my country this time. Who knows where I’ll be after four years. I couldn’t control my tears when we lost; it was heartbreaking.
TNS: Tell us about your fiery spell in the quarter-final against Australia?
WR: It was planned; we were defending a low total. We had to attack them. We were looking for some early wickets. You may have noticed I got the field placed according to my strategy of bowling bouncers.
I also settled scores with Shane Watson, I said him the same thing that he earlier said to me when I was batting and it ended there on the field.
TNS: Would you have shown the same aggression had you not been provoked by Watson?
WR: I had to be aggressive, regardless of what happened in first innings. It was decided.
TNS: Do you think if that catch wasn’t dropped by Rahat, things would’ve been different?
WR: Who knows? May be the result would have been different. But it happens. I’ve no grudge against Rahat. Nobody drops a catch deliberately. Rahat is a very good bowler and a good fielder. He tried his best. That was only an unfortunate moment for us. Probably, it was our fate.
TNS: All the legends of the game praised you after the quarter-final, including Brian Lara. How do you feel being complimented by such legends?
WR: It is really great to see all the confidence boosting comments by the legends. I really felt proud when I heard Brian Lara’s comments. It’s a big compliment for me and such words from a legend have given me more confidence.
TNS: You scored a fifty against Zimbabwe. It was indeed a match saving innings. Are you planning to transform yourself into an all-rounder?
WR: Obviously! I believe that I’ve the ability to become an all-rounder and I am working hard on my batting as well. One of my goals in life is to become a proper all-rounder for Pakistan team and I am sure that I’ll achieve this goal.
TNS: Which of your 16 wickets would you rate as the most important or most memorable?
WR: I think every wicket is important and memorable, but two wickets were extraordinarily important. One was Zimbabwe’s Brendan Taylor and another was South Africa’s Hashim Amla. They both are good batsmen and very important to their teams.
TNS: A lot of people are suggesting that you should be made Pakistan’s ODI captain? Are you ready for it?
WR: For any player, leading the country’s national team is always an honour. This is for the PCB to decide. If they select me, I will take this opportunity as an honour.
TNS: Tell us about your childhood. How did you grow up to be a cricketer? Which player did you idolise?
WR: As a left-hander, I always idolised Wasim Akram. I always wanted to be a bowler like Wasim Akram. I still want to be like him. Although it’s a long way to go, I am really working hard to become a player like him. I grew up playing cricket in Lahore; never thought I would transform from a BATTA bowler to WHAT-A-BOWLER. I think hard work always pays you off.
TNS: Is it safe to say that you are aiming to become the third W of Pakistan cricket, after Wasim and Waqar?
WR: Certainly. As I said earlier, I want to become someone like Wasim Akram. I have a long way to go to achieve this, but if I ever become someone even close to Wasim, it will be anhonour. I would love to be known as third “W” of Pakistan.
TNS: How is Waqar Younis’ coaching helpful to you?
WR: Waqar Younis is a legend and as a coach he’s given me a lot of confidence. He used me as Pakistan’s leading bowler in the tournament. All the members of team management, including Waqar Younis and Mushy Bhai (Mushtaq Ahmed), backed me up and encouraged me.
TNS: We saw that you were the fastest in Champions League T20 in India where you represented Lahore Lions and then in thisWorld Cup. Are you now aiming to break Shoaib Akhtar’s record of the fastest delivery?
WR: It will be great if I can do that; 160 is not easy, but it is also not impossible. I am working hard. Someday I may break this record. Who knows! My priority always is to give my best for the team.
TNS: How do you feel not being able to play in the Indian Premier League?
WR: IPL is, undoubtedly, a big league. A big opportunity! But it’s not a big issue. If something is not on your way, then there is no use of talking about it. I played for Kent in 2011 and it was also a good learning experience.
TNS: How did your stint with Kent help you?
WR: It helped me a lot. Playing county cricket is always a learning experience, for any player, especially from our region. There is a lot of competitiveness there and it pushes you to give your best.
TNS: Is there any batsman in the world whom you are targeting?
WR: I’ve bowled to many batsmen in the world, but there is one whom I have yet to dismiss and he’s AB de Villiers. I really want to get his wicket. I’ve bowled to him but haven’t been able to get his wicket. He’s really good.
TNS: Is it difficult to keep your place in the team owing to good performances from other left-armers?
WR: Well, it is healthy competition between all of us, which is good for Pakistan. I am not afraid of any competition. It is good for all of us to be on our toes. When a player knows that there is someone ready to replace him, then he automatically gives his best.
TNS: How much are you missing playing international cricket on home soil?
WR: It is really depressing to see stadiums in Pakistan deprived of international cricket. I want to play an international match at Gadaffi stadium, my home ground.