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Mohammad Abbas spoke in an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net about his feelings after being selected for the Test squad, his performances in domestic cricket as well the impression he made on Misbah-ul-Haq during the semi-final of the Quaid-e-Azam Grade II cricket tournament and looked forward to helping Pakistan to success in the upcoming series.
 
By Amir Husain (14th April, 2017)
 
After Pakistan’s recent successes in the limited-over series in the West Indies, the attention now shifts to the upcoming three-match Test series which starts on the 21st of April. Whilst the recent news of the impending retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan has been the cause of some concern for fans, the induction of new talent in the Test squad has also renewed hope in a brighter future for Pakistan. 

Twenty-seven-year-old Mohammad Abbas, a right-arm medium-fast bowler, has been one of the top performers in four-day domestic cricket for the past three years. His talent has been finally rewarded by the selectors with his inclusion in the sixteen-man Test squad for the tour of the West Indies.

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Abbas spoke about his feelings after being selected for the Test squad, his performances in domestic cricket as well the impression he made on Misbah-ul-Haq during the semi-final of the Quaid-e-Azam Grade II cricket tournament and looked forward to helping Pakistan to success in the upcoming series.
 
Mohammad Abbas has been knocking on the door of selection for a good few years with some fantastic performances under his belt, so in a way his call-up for the Pakistan side was not unexpected as he stated that, “It’s a great honour to have been selected for the Pakistan Test squad for the tour of the West Indies. I feel selection is a reward for my hard work. I had earlier been invited for the training camp for the limited-overs series as well so in a sense, the coaching staff were able to see me bowl and that probably helped in making my case for the Tests as well. I am glad that I was able to impress the selectors during the Test series camp but I am sure that my hard work from the past two to three years at the domestic level had a lot to do with my eventual selection as well. I was always very hopeful that my name would be on the list for the squad for West Indies and in the end, I wasn’t disappointed.”

Coming from a modest background, it was his hard-work as well as talent which lead Abbas towards the top. Starting from club cricket in 2006, he quickly progressed via the regional route to make his debut in the 2009 edition of the Quaid-e-Azam trophy for the Sialkot team before ending up with KRL. The tally of 244 first-class wickets and three years of fantastic progress at the domestic level tells a story of great accomplishment of which Mohammad Abbas is rightly proud of.

“The confidence I have in my own abilities was really a product of my performances in the 2016-17 season where I was the highest wicket taker in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 71 wickets. In fact, even in the previous season I topped the charts with 61 wickets in the same competition. I also had a good series against England Lions in Dubai in 2016 and then went over to England to play against England A and Sri Lanka A in the One-Day games. I did, however, miss out on selection for the Pakistan A tour of Zimbabwe in September of 2016. It was a setback but I was not disappointed as that just gave me time to sit-back and take stock as well as work on some weaknesses in my game. My ambition was to work harder and aim for selection in the national team and the Almighty rewarded me for that effort.”

There aren’t too many fans and cricketers who do not recognise the qualities that the Pakistan Test captain Misbah-ul-Haq has brought to the game they love and play. With the experience of leading Pakistan for almost seven years and having faced bowlers from around the world under difficult circumstances, it is no wonder that Misbah’s judgement on bowling talent is well-respected by the selectors. The case of Mohammad Abbas’ selection for the Pakistan Test squad seems to be a good case in point as the fast-bowler explained, “The mark of great players is that they always appreciate and encourage other players and in that sense, my interactions with both Misbah and Younis Khan in the pre Test series camp was excellent. I was also fortunate that I recently played the semi-final in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Grade-II for Sialkot against Faisalabad. I took seven wickets for just 38 runs as we bowled out Faisalabad for 125 in the first innings. Misbah was captaining Faisalabad and was also impressed by my bowling, especially as I took his wicket. In the past few years, I have never had the opportunity to bowl with the red-ball to Misbah and this was the first time I got that chance. I thought to myself that this was a great chance to impress our Test captain and by taking nine wickets in that game, I feel I established a good impression on him which must have helped in my selection.”

The selections of Shadab Khan, Usman Salahuddin and Mohammad Abbas are examples if any were needed that the selection committee under the tutelage of the experienced former captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq is taking concrete measures to encourage new talent based on merit alone. For Abbas, these are good signs for the future of Pakistan cricket.

“This is a great time for Pakistan cricket as anyone who is performing well at the domestic level is being given chances by the selectors. So, our top Twenty20 and One-Day performers were picked for the Limited-Overs series against the West Indies and in my case, the four-day performances from the past few years are being rewarded by the selectors as well.”

Mohammad Abbas’s journey to the Test squad for Pakistan has been one of hard work and is laced with some excellent performances but now a tougher challenge awaits the fast-bowler. With Pakistan’s less than ideal Test results in the past few series, the pressure will be on the former number one ranked holders to drastically improve their performances. It is here where a fresh talent like Abbas can help Pakistan, “I am very excited about the series ahead. If given the chance, I would do my best to continue the types of performances which I have been putting at the domestic level. From what I hear from the coaches and other players, the pitches in the West Indies are pretty similar to what we are used to here and that is what we have practised for. My aim is to put in some good performances in the West Indies and it would truly be a dream come true for me if due to my bowling, the Pakistan team is able to win games there”, he concluded.