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Saqlain battling pressure

Multan: Experienced Pakistan off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq is feeling the pressure to perform in this week’s third and final Test against Bangladesh after being sidelined from the international arena for six months.

The 26-year-old has not represented his country since playing in a World Cup pool game against Holland in February, but has been recalled as Pakistan’s senior bowler in the absence of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Sami.

“I am only human and do feel the pressure and tension of a comeback,” Saqlain said on Tuesday. “But a Test match is a Test match and, if I can play the senior bowler’s role for my team to perfection, I will be happy for a job well done.

“I have always given 100 per cent for my country and don’t want to dwell on why the selectors ignored me after the World Cup.”

Saqlain, a veteran of 47 Tests and 168 ODIs, was recalled for the Multan Test after Shoaib rejoined English county Durham and fellow fast bowler Sami was ruled out with a stress fracture.

“I am just relieved to be back in the team because it was frustrating to be on the sidelines since the World Cup, especially as I have a lot of passion for the game,” Saqlain said.

The off-spinner has expanded his bowling repertoire during his six-month absence and will be trying out some of his new deliveries in the final Test against Bangladesh and in the home series against South Africa.

“I treat every delivery as a (potential) wicket-taking one,” said the spinner, renowned for his mystery ball doosra.

“In recent times, the ball that goes the other way has been a stock ball for me. But I have been experimenting with some new deliveries to add variety to my bowling.”

Saqlain, who has taken 205 wickets in Tests and 288 in ODIs, added he had never set specific targets.

“I don’t believe in long-term goals, because you don’t know whether you will play the next match,” he said. “You don’t even know what happens the next day. I treat every match as the most important thing at that moment, and give my best.”

Bracketed with Shane Warne, Muttiah Muralidharan and Anil Kumble as the leading exponents of spin bowling in the modern game, Saqlain was one of Wisden’s five players of the year in 2000.

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