Pakistan has a history of producing menacing fast bowlers. From the Imran Khan era, with the rise of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, to 1997, when a young Shoaib Akhtar appeared on the scene. In 2010, a young Mohammad Amir made headlines while Shaheen Afridi is the boss in the modern age. There has never been a shortage of quality spacers in Pakistan; but at the same time many promising talents came and disappeared. Mohammad Asif was a “waste of talent, as Wasim Akram recently noted, and Amir’s career was shortened and marred with controversy. Umar Gul could have been so much more, just like Abdul Razzaq.
Another bowler whose career was filled with “what ifs” was Junaid Khan. The fast left-armer made his Pakistan debut in 2011 and would play 107 internationals over the next eight years. In ODIs, Junaid’s best of 4/12 came against India in Chennai in 2012 when he advanced through India’s highest order and sacked the Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Rohit Sharma.
A video of his performance was shared by a Twitter user, which was re-shared by Junaid himself, calling it the turning point of his career. “I think this was the turning point in my career. What do you think?” Junaid tweeted. However, users on Twitter had mixed reactions to it. Some called it one of the best opening spells, while others questioned Junaid about his lack of appearances afterward.
In the second ODI, Junaid cast another brilliant spell, sacking Kohli and Gautam Gambhir. A year later, in 2013, Junaid fielded a fine last for Pakistan against South Africa. Bowling with an injured shin, Junaid defended nine runs to the last over and helped his team by a narrow margin of one run in a final ball thriller.
It was Pakistan’s first-ever win in a bilateral series in South Africa, but unfortunately fitness issues pushed Junaid out of the international set-up. After making occasional sporadic appearances, Junaid was named in Pakistan’s 2019 World Cup squad but was later removed from it. He finally made a long-awaited comeback later the same year, but was dropped again shortly after.