All eyes were predictably trained on the maverick Mohammad Amir, who came out all guns blazing during Pakistan team’s intense first training session at the Eden Gardens, on Sunday morning. (Full Coverage|| Fixtures||Photos)
The inswinging yorkers were right on target as Amir aimed at the base of a single stump repeatedly and with consummate ease.
Getting the channel right was top on the agenda of the Pakistani pacemen as veteran Mohammad Sami and 7 feet giant Mohammad Irfan also practiced with a single stump under the watchful eyes of bowling coach Azhar Mahmood.
Another veteran Wahab Riaz bowled to the batsmen at the main nets.
Having landed in Kolkata on Saturday evening following much drama about their participation that delayed their arrival by three days, Shahid Afridi and Co wasted little time and checked in to Eden Gardens less than 12 hours after their arrival, and went about their practice session for more than two hours beginning at 9.15 am.
First to turn up at their happy hunting Eden Gardens was head coach Waqar Younis accompanied by interim bowling coach Mahmood as they went straight to inspect the pitch along with Azhar Mahmood.
After bowling more than half an hour Amir bowled to his skipper Afridi as Pakistani camp really looked relief to get back the bowler.
Riaz later said at the Open Media session that his workload has lessened with Amir’s return.
“Amir is very different. He has got a fine inswinger and is very effective. Leading the way with the new ball. He’s sharp and that gives an extra edge to our Pakistani bowling attack. There’s less pressure on me. He’s bowling with the new ball, and he’s taking wickets,” Riaz said.
“I just have to bowl within the stumps. If they’re bowling really well, I just have to play the stop-gap role. My job has become very limited.
Citing example of Asia Cup where Amir rattled India with his 3/18, he said:”You have seen what kind of a bowler he is and what he can do with the ball. You’ve seen all that in the Asia Cup. He’s a quality bowler we all know.”
Riaz, who has played with the likes of Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul, said the present attack would rank among the best.
“Irfan gets good bounce using his height. Mohammad Sami has got good outswing. We have a lot of variety in our bowling. It’s one of the best bowling attacks we have had.”
Amir returned to International cricket in January, playing in the three-game Twenty20 series against New Zealand after completing a five-year ban in September last year.
Amir along with Salman Butt and Mohammad Asif were jailed in the UK in 2011 and were banned on charges of spotfixing during the 2010 Lord’s Test.
But Amir, being just 18 at the time of the scandal, received a reprieve with a relaxation in ban in January last year.
“I’ve played with the likes of Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul. These guys left. Right now we have a very good pace bowling attack. You name one and everyone is bowling 140kph-plus,” Riaz added.
Pakistan who have an all win 4-0 ODI record against India at the Eden will play two matches here including the grudge clash against India March 19 which was shifted from Dharamshala. Before that they will face group A qualifiers to start their World Twenty20 campaign March 16.
Pakistan will warm-up against Sri Lanka on Monday.