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Eye on the future

According to top domestic performers like fast-bowler Abdur Rauf, the ouster of Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif has given hope to their inclusion in the national side.

LAHORE: With an eye on the future, the top players in the Pakistan domestic season are keen to stake their claims for a place in the national squad.

Looking to take advantage of the ouster of three Pakistan players – Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt – batsman Usman Salahuddin and fast-bowler Sadaf Hussain have shown there is no dearth of talent in the cricket-crazy country.

While Salahuddin is the season’s top run-getter with an aggregate of 1,197, Hussain has shown promise as well, picking up 64 wickets in the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy. Out-of-favour Pakistan fast-bowler Abdur Rauf, however, is the top wicket-taker and has rocked the domestic circuit with 91 after the recently-concluded Pentangular Cup.

'My best chance'

Salahuddin is hopeful that his impressive run will catch the selectors’ eyes after the World Cup, the conclusion of which, according to the batsman, is likely to see the retirement of several players.

“I know this is my best chance,” Salahuddin told The Express Tribune. “A lot of players are set to retire and with three of our players [Salman, Asif and Amir] being banned, I see getting an opportunity.”

However, Salahuddin knows it is not the safest bet when it comes to representing Pakistan at the international level because a handful get the chance, and even fewer remain with the team.

“Normally it’s very difficult to find a place but this is the only way to at least draw some attention.”

Akhtar’s retirement gives window of opportunity

While Salahuddin may still find the going a bit tougher after Asad Shafiq’s recent heroics, the Chakwal-born Hussain sees light at the end of the tunnel with maverick bowler Shoaib Akhtar set to hang up his boots after cricket’s showpiece event.

“Players are following the game and looking for that window of opportunity. After Amir, Asif and now Akhtar, I feel lucky to be the top bowler in the recent season. I know I won’t be handed an immediate chance but I’m on a roll and have more than knocked on the selectors’ doors.”

But Hussain, too, is aware of the competition and given Pakistan’s ability to produce fast-bowlers at will, the fight remains competitive.

“[Just] finishing as the leading wicket-taker will not guarantee me a spot in the national squad.

This isn’t a unique achievement but the important thing is the timing when at least five to six players from the team are set to draw the curtains on their career,” added Hussain.

Rauf’s expectations rise

Meanwhile, Rauf, who has played the few of his internationals as a replacement bowler, renewed his expectations after a more-than-impressive domestic season.

“On several occasions I thought there was no room for me in the national side but now I think my performance will surely count.”