LONDON - Pace bowling great and former captain Wasim Akram has slammed the Pakistan team management for its ‘mistreatment’ of fast bowler Junaid Khan, terming the decision of benching the left-armer as ‘confusing’. The 25-year-old Junaid, who burst onto the scene in 2011, was seen as a hot prospect to fill the void left behind after the spot-fixing bans on fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. He largely lived up to those expectations, churning out several match-winning performances in his 22 Tests and 52 ODIs.

A knee injury in October 2014, however, put a dampener on his fast-growing reputation and forced him to miss the 2015 World Cup. Since then, he has featured in just four Tests and as many ODIs. But Akram, Junaid's idol, believes the national selectors have not given the paceman enough time and matches to settle into a rhythm.

“Junaid was one of my favourites and I had high hopes for him. The selectors, though, haven't done him any favours by picking him, then dropping him, then picking him again and so on,” Akram said in an interview to Pakpassion. “I don't know who is responsible for this whether it's the selectors or the coach but they really need to have some consistency over Junaid's selection,” he added. Junaid, who caught the eye of the cricket world when he ripped through the defenses of Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh in Pakistan's successful ODI tour of India in 2012, has signed up with English county Middlesex to play in the 2015 Royal London One-Day Cup after being left out of the T20 series against Sri Lanka.

According to Akram, the selectors appeared to have no plan for Junaid. “They pick him for one format and then pick him for another format. There seems to be no consistency in their treatment and planning for Junaid. He's not a magician who can suddenly turn up after a lay-off or after being dropped and take five wickets in his first game back. What exactly is the selectors plan for Junaid, what's in their minds? Have they even worked out what format(s) they feel he is suited to? I'm really concerned about the treatment of Junaid by the selectors and the think-tank.”

Akram, who will conduct a training camp for fast bowlers in Karachi next month, also urged the Pakistan Cricket Board to invest in academies across the country so talents like Junaid could be nurtured from a much younger age. “Many natural resources will dry up, but Pakistan's pace bowling talent will never stop. But we shouldn't become complacent. We need to channel these fast bowlers and make sure we make full use of our academies and the facilities they provide.”

The former captain backed calls by PCB chairman Shahryar Khan to overhaul the culture of fitness in Pakistan cricket, terming the recent injury woes of the team as ‘criminal’. “If you look at some of the players they look chubby and unfit. In this modern era of sport, if a player does not know what he should and shouldn't be eating or how much exercise he should be doing, then that is a crime.”