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Australia have stamped a bit of authority on England: Ajmal Shahzad

Ajmal Shahzad looks to make a comeback into the shorter formats for England © Getty Images
Ajmal Shahzad looks to make a comeback into the shorter formats for England © Getty Images

 

By Saj Sadiq

 

Ajmal Shahzad represented England on 15 occasions between February 2010 and March 2011. He took four wickets at an average of 15.75 in his solitary Test outing, playing against Bangladesh, and has also had success in the shorter formats.

 

In 11 One Day Internationals (ODIs) for his country, Ajmal took 17 wickets at an average of 28.82 and was part of the England side that reached the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Cup, where his memorable six off Munaf Patel helped England tie the match against India.

 

Having spent the majority of his career at Yorkshire, Shahzad raised eyebrows by moving to Roses rivals, Lancashire, before signing a three-year deal with Nottinghamshire. In last season’s domestic YB40 competition, he finished as the second highest wicket taker and played a key role in Nottinghamshire lifting the title, taking 3-33 from his six overs in the final.

 

His international career is currently on hold, following the introduction of a plethora of English fast bowlers but his recent form, particularly in the limited overs format, suggests that he can bowl his way back into international reckoning.

 

In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Shahzad spoke about his initial interest in cricket, the experience of becoming the first British-Asian to play for Yorkshire, his move to Nottinghamshire and his plans for the future.

 

 

PakPassion.net: How did you become interested in cricket?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: My dad was born in Pakistan where he pretty much grew up with cricket; it was a good pastime for him back in Pakistan. Later in his life, when I was younger, my dad started to play cricket in the local leagues in Bradford and Asian Sunday leagues. He played cricket for quite a long time, so really my interest in cricket was largely due to my father.

 

My interest in sports, in general, began when I started playing badminton for Yorkshire at the age of 15. I represented Yorkshire and England, so I actually thought I’d pursue a career in badminton. However, despite my love for badminton, I was also playing cricket at the same time. I went for a few cricket trials at Yorkshire, but never succeeded. Then around that time, Imran Khan pointed out to Yorkshire that they didn’t really have any home-grown Asian players, and there was possibly some kind of, I wouldn’t say racial, but an element of segregation in play.

 

As a result, Yorkshire held some trials that were set up specifically for Asian cricketers, which I went down to, and managed to stand out from the crowd. I was invited to some net sessions with Yorkshire where my bowling coach at the time, Steve Oldham, asked me if I’d like to join Yorkshire full-time for a year, which put a smile on my face! I went back home, told my dad the good news and it really took off from there. That’s how I got involved with Yorkshire and I had to leave badminton behind to concentrate on cricket.

 

PakPassion.net: When you went for the trials with Yorkshire, were you playing league cricket at the time?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: Yes I was. My friend and I used to play in the streets around my house, and the gentleman whose wall we used as wickets was a member on the board of the cricket club that I played for at the time, the Windhill Cricket Club. He asked if we fancied getting involved with the cricket club which was 15-20 minutes away from my house. To get invited along was exciting for us, as this was an opportunity to get involved as youngsters, to meet new people and also a chance to showcase our skills.

 

I started playing for Windhill at the age of 16. I didn’t really get noticed there as I played alongside some very good players who played for Yorkshire at the time, so it really kicked off for me when I went to those trials at Yorkshire. As it happened, I was studying at Bradford Grammar School at the time and I’d gone for a few trials at Yorkshire and England Schools. When I moved schools to Woodhouse Grove, which was the last school I attended, I ended up being involved in the England Schools setup before I had even been selected to play for Yorkshire! This was a little bit odd – to play for England before you’d been selected for Yorkshire. I really enjoyed that.

 

That’s how I first got involved in cricket. I played for Windhill Cricket Club, which was in the Bradford League at the time, and I went through the ranks. I started playing in the Gordon Bowers competition in the under-14s, where each pair would bat for four overs. Then I moved through the ranks to the second team, then the first team and then thankfully I reached Yorkshire.

 

PakPassion.net: You were the first British-born Asian to sign up for Yorkshire. Did you feel any additional pressure as a result?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: No, definitely not. I never ever saw it like that. My debut was against Worcestershire in a YB40 game, and I was told on the morning of the game that I would be making my debut. I’d gone there thinking I’d be 12th man, not really considering that I would have a chance to play.

 

However, 15-20 minutes before the match started my captain at the time, Craig White, told me I’d be playing. I didn’t have time to tell my mum or dad or send any messages back home to let them know, I just got on with the game.

 

It wasn’t really the best start to my career – 6 overs for 36 and no wickets – but it was a start and I really enjoyed it. I didn’t think about it in any other sense apart from “I’ve just made my debut for Yorkshire and enjoyed every moment of it.”

 

I was told that I was the first British-born Asian player to play for Yorkshire, which for me was just a sign of things to come in the future. I just wanted to keep playing and getting games under my belt. There were a few other Asians like Adil Rashid who were fast coming on to the scene, so I thought I’d probably be the first of many to follow.

 

PakPassion.net: How long did you have to wait before you made your Yorkshire debut? How difficult was it to break into the Yorkshire side?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: It took me a couple of years to get into the first team. It was difficult at the time for me, because I was an upcoming young bowler with no experience under my belt. I was trying to fight for a place against a long line of very experienced and very good bowlers. These included the likes of Darren Gough, Deon Kruis who was an overseas player, Tim Bresnan, Matthew Hoggard and Ryan Sidebottom. It was very very difficult for me to come in and take one of their places so I had to bide my time and keep plugging away and working hard. When I was given the chance in that YB40 game, I tried to grasp it with both hands but it didn’t really go the way I wanted it to.

 

When I got the chance to play four-day cricket, I got a little run and a few games under my belt. I tried to do my best and it paid off. I put some performances together and the rest is history really. I started playing more for the Yorkshire first team and was able to consistently pick up wickets and score some runs, which was exactly the kind of player that I saw myself as; a genuine all-rounder. Then the England Lions call came and from there I just kicked on to the full England team.

 

PakPassion.net: As your father is from Pakistan, were you divided between supporting Pakistan or England while you were growing up?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: I’ll be completely honest with you, when I was growing up I supported Pakistan purely due to the fact that they were very unpredictable. On their day they would be absolutely brilliant, they’d put teams to shame and all their players would stand up. They’d have match-winners, every player they had was a match-winner, but sometimes they would struggle to gel as a unit.

 

To watch them play at their best was unbelievable, and in my eyes they were the underdogs because they would have a few days where they would be absolutely brilliant, but there were many times where they would perform below expectations and wouldn’t really do their best.

 

I always wanted them to win but as I’ve become older, obviously I’ve represented my country and played against Pakistan. I’ve played against some very very talented cricketers from Pakistan, some of the best in the world. It’s great to watch them play, but on the pitch I obviously want to win and I want the team that I play for to win, so that’s what it comes down to.

 

However, sitting back and watching Pakistan play on the television against teams other than England, I’ve always had a little bit inside me wanting them to win, purely due to the fact that they’re the underdogs and you don’t know what to expect from them.

 

PakPassion.net: You’ve had some injury problems. Was this just wear and tear or was it a technical issue?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: The biggest injury I had was a stress fracture to my lower back which I got really early in my career. It was just after I’d made my first-team debut for Yorkshire. I originally used to bowl with a very similar action to Shoaib Akhtar. He’s an extremely strong individual and it worked for him. For me, being a youngster who wasn’t that strong and slightly overweight, trying to bowl as quickly as possible with a high-strain action wasn’t really doing me any favours. Don’t get me wrong, I was still bowling quick and in the right areas. However, when the stress fracture kicked in, I had six months off.

 

When I came back, I tried to re-model my action and also tried to build my strength, which also allowed me to get away with bowling quickly a little bit more. I then grooved an action that gave me as much pace as I could get, but which was still safe and allowed me to think about prolonging my career.

 

Instead of bowling one or two spells in a day and getting tired, I’d be able to bowl four or five spells during the course of a day and then be able to come back again the next day with venom. So yes, I corrected my action and got it to what it is today. It’s a little bit natural, but it’s orthodox with regards to my feet and hand alignment. Fingers crossed, it’s all gone well for me. The stress fracture was a major thing for me. I also had a hernia operation which nearly every fast bowler goes through. I’ve only had the one hernia to date but there were many fast bowlers, particularly at Yorkshire, who went through two operations. I hope I don’t have another one.

 

I’ve also had an ankle operation due to an impingement on the back of my ankle. That was upsetting because I’d got that in the Ashes one-dayers before the 2011 World Cup. I went to India thinking it was nothing major and had a couple of injections in it. It was a bit sore but I got through the World Cup and came back to Yorkshire. I then played a season with a very very sore ankle. I ended up having four injections in the back of the ankle, which did me no favours. So getting through that season with a dodgy ankle, trying to be a strike bowler and bowl as well as I possibly could – it didn’t really happen for me. This was upsetting because I give one hundred per cent all the time. The thing is the wicket tally sometimes doesn’t reflect the effort that you’ve put in. In the end I had a pretty poor season by my standards. I only took about twenty-five wickets, partly due to having a dodgy ankle.

 

That’s been sorted now after having surgery. I haven’t really had much trouble with the ankle since, and the body feels in good nick. Hopefully, I can crack on and stay injury-free.

 

PakPassion.net: What was the step up like, from county cricket to international cricket?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: The way a lot of county teams go about their preparation, the build-up to the games, the nutritional side of things and everything that goes on behind the scenes, it’s getting more and more like the England setup. The transition from county cricket to international cricket isn’t massively different. There are obviously some differences – the England backroom staff and the preparation that goes on behind the scenes is unbelievable, especially all the gym work and the conditioning. Of course there are some greats to work alongside too. When I was playing for England we had Graham Gooch who was there full-time, Mushtaq Ahmed, who is another legend of the game, and Andy Flower himself. To have these gentlemen around you means you can glean advice from them.

 

The transition is not massive, but it is noticeable and the main aim for the county is to get that gap as close as possible so when players do take that step up, it’s not a daunting experience.

 

PakPassion.net: Prior to your move from Yorkshire, what was it like working with your coach there, Jason Gillespie?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: When I moved from Yorkshire it just so happened that Dizzy [Jason Gillespie] was in charge. When Dizzy came, he wanted to put his own touch to the Yorkshire dressing room, and let it be known that he was the coach and that “this is the way we’re going to do it”.

 

It was different to how it had been during my nine years at Yorkshire. That was a bit of a shock for me and it put me in an uncomfortable place.

 

Apart from that, there were a few incidents earlier on during my time at Yorkshire, where Martyn Moxon and I had a few disagreements. It just so happened that the year Dizzy came was the year I decided to move. To be honest, I had asked to leave the previous year but Martyn didn’t allow it to happen. When Dizzy came, he and I came to an agreement that it was best for both parties if we part ways, and that led to me leaving Yorkshire.

 

PakPassion.net: The permanent move to Lancashire didn’t materialise – were you hoping for a long-term deal at Old Trafford?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: My three months at Lancashire were some of the most enjoyable times of my professional cricketing career. The lads were absolutely fantastic and the coach Peter Moores was magnificent. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with, and I can’t praise him highly enough.

 

He’s always looking outside the box and you can tell that he really wants you to do well and be the best you can be. That’s fantastic, especially for a player like me who’s quite enthusiastic and wants to do things that are slightly different. He’s all for it and happy for you to explore those ideas.

 

I never thought I would leave Lancashire and I was hoping there was going to be a contract on the table and that we’d take it from there. However, they weren’t sure about their budget and I think they also had a couple more players in mind, who several counties were trying to snap up at the time. This list included the likes of James Harris, who moved to Middlesex and Jack Brooks, who went to Yorkshire. So Lancashire had those two in mind, as well as myself, and I was left in limbo. It put me in a bit of an uncomfortable situation where I didn’t know whether they wanted me or not.

 

I thought it was best for me to see whether any other clubs would want my services. It just so happened that Nottinghamshire were looking for an all-rounder to bat at number eight and hopefully open the bowling. It was mainly for one-day cricket but also to play some four-day cricket; not every game, but maybe three-quarters of the season and I was happy with that.

 

Ideally, I would have wanted to play all forms all the time but the way the game is nowadays, you need to take some breaks to come back fresher and fitter. So I was happy with that and Mick Newell seemed like a fantastic coach to work with and a great manager.
Whilst Lancashire were still thinking about whether or not they were going to sign me, I took the onus upon myself to decide my future. I wanted to play First Division cricket, and Mick Newell had a proven track record of putting lads who had come out of the England set-up, back into the reckoning for the national side. So that was a big reason to move there. I did want to stay at Lancashire, mainly because I thought working alongside an ex-England coach like Peter Moores would propel me back into the England setup.

 

However, it seemed they weren’t sure that I was the kind of player that they wanted, or perhaps they were looking elsewhere for someone for less money. So I couldn’t wait for them to give me an answer, I had to be proactive, so I signed up for Nottinghamshire.

 

PakPassion.net: You did fantastically well for Nottinghamshire in the YB40 competition this year. Do you feel better suited to the shorter formats or are you trying to get back to playing the longer version of the game more?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: In the YB40 competition this year, I played 11 matches out of the 14. Amongst the seam bowlers in the team, I’ve played the least amount of matches yet I have taken the most wickets; I took 22 wickets this year and was second in the country. Last year, I was first in the country with 21 wickets, so my one-day wickets have been good for me.

 

Ideally I would love to play the longer format. Test cricket is the pinnacle of cricket in my eyes but I think, to be the best in Test cricket, you have to be unbelievably consistent and you have to know your game inside out. I don’t think I am ready for that; I’m 28 now and I think I’m still learning my game and this year is a big year for me. One-day cricket has always been very enjoyable for me because I can go out and express myself and show my skills. I can be the man of the moment when the time calls for it.

 

When I came to Nottinghamshire, I didn’t feature much in the T20s and there were a few times where I didn’t feature in the YB40, either. Ideally, I should have been one of the first names on the team-sheet. Granted I didn’t do fantastically well in my first few games, but I’ve represented England in the shorter formats of the game, and I’ve done well for them. With the experience I’ve got and the know-how I’ve picked up over the years, I was hoping to be playing every game in the shorter formats, both YB40 and T20 but that didn’t happen.

 

It even came to a point at the end of the season, where I had been the leading wicket taker with the best average and the best economy rate in the YB40 competition – and I was told that if the young lad Jake Ball was going to be fit, then I wasn’t going to play and was going to miss out because Stuart Broad had to come back into the side.

 

To be honest with you, that infuriated me because I hadn’t had much to celebrate in the season, I hadn’t had the best of four-day competitions and I didn’t really feature much in the T20s. So to be told that I probably wasn’t going to be involved in the YB40 Final was unbelievably disappointing. It just so happened that Jake Ball wasn’t fit and then I played and, thankfully, I took three wickets and we won it. It’s just that I want to play in every match for Nottinghamshire.

 

PakPassion.net: Nottinghamshire have a number of players involved in the England setup, do you see that as a positive for yourself?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: I do. To be sat around current England players can only be a good thing because you want to compare yourself to them. You want to see what it takes to get to the top level and how far off you are. As well as that, you can pick their brains about the situations they’ve been in and the experiences they’ve had all over the world. Plus, if you perform well in front of someone like Stuart Broad, who’s England’s T20I captain and have a few good games in front of him, then maybe he’ll have a word with the selectors, drop your name in and next thing you know you’ve got a call up to the England side.

 

Personally, I think I perform better playing alongside England players. When I look back at my time at Yorkshire, I performed very well when the likes of Darren Gough, Matthew Hoggard and Tim Bresnan were there. When they were in the same team as me and I was bowling alongside them, I performed really well because I thought to myself that these lads have been in the England setup and I want to show them that I’m as good as them or not that far off from their level.

 

PakPassion.net: Now that you’re at Nottinghamshire, you’ve had to move away from Yorkshire and the comforts of home for the first time. How has that been for you?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: In all honesty, it’s been quite tough. Being a bit of a ‘mummy’s boy’ and living at home with the parents in a traditional Asian family, I’ve never really been away from my family; I’ve never had that experience. Now that I am living away from home, I’ve not been able to see my family every day and not spoken to them as much – I’ve really had to fend for myself.

 

I don’t have a clue how to cook or clean. As I said, I’ve always been a ‘mummy’s boy’ and my mum has always been there to do that for me – it’s always been quite comforting. I also think she’s wanted to do it. I’m the eldest son, I’ve got a younger brother and younger sister. My mum has always wanted to look after me and be there for me. I may have been away from home and going through things alone, but she’s always been there for me. I’ve found it hard from a personal point of view and so have my family.

 

I think next year I am going to move back to Bradford with my family and possibly commute, or spend a few days in Nottingham at a time when we’ll be playing at home or playing a few one-dayers. I’m looking forward to going back home as it has been tough. In hindsight, I would have liked to have stayed closer to home, but I came to Nottingham to progress my career and try to do the best I can in the time that I’ve got.

 

PakPassion.net: You played in the World Cup in India. Tell us about your experience of playing in that tournament?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: It was different! I had never seen anything like that before, never having previously been to India. It was magical. To go into a full stadium in India, and play against the home side was absolutely unbelievable. In that noise, you couldn’t hear yourself think, you couldn’t hear the captain, you had to look for hand signals to know what was going on. I recall that as soon as Tendulkar and Sehwag came out to bat, the crowd went absolutely crazy, screaming at the top of their voices, and the stadium was vibrating! It’s something I’ll never forget. An experience I will treasure for a very very long time. The whole World Cup was brilliant.

 

PakPassion.net: What was going through your head when you hit that six in Bangalore?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: I can’t say I was confident! Tim Bresnan had just walked back after being dismissed and I saw a lot of the heads were down in the dressing room, and people were thinking we had lost this game. Just before I went out to bat, Andy Flower tapped me on the shoulder and said “try to give the strike to Swanny”, which is what I was thinking when I went out to bat. We needed 11 off 4 balls and I thought “we’re not going to win this game by getting singles”, so if the ball was there to hit, I was going to try and smash it out of the ground. That’s what I always practiced for – day in, day out – trying to be the hero, trying to make the difference.

 

I was aiming to predict what Munaf was trying to bowl and as soon as I got down the stairs and on to the ground, I was focused. I didn’t know what was going on around me, but could hear screaming all the way around the ground. I went out to the crease and told Swann “if it’s there, I’m going to smash it and hope for the best; try and hit it for a six”. Munaf ran up and bowled me a ball that was there or thereabouts in the slot, so I just hit it. The boundaries aren’t the biggest in India and it went for six and got us back in the game. It was not a win, but it got us back in contention. Later on, I thought if only I could have done that next ball, then I would have been a match-winner and it would have been a different result.

 

It was nice for me to do my bit for the team when they needed it.

 

PakPassion.net: You played against Pakistan in Dubai. Tell us about your discussions with Waqar Younis? 

 

Ajmal Shahzad: He hadn’t seen a lot of me – just what he’d seen in the nets for about 20 minutes. We talked about how I held the ball, how I would grip it, about reverse swing and how important it would be in the subcontinent and Dubai. He was just telling me about how he would go about it, having the smooth side and the rough side, having one side dry and allowing it to reverse. He had a far more slingy action than me, so he told me how he would do it, and I was very interested.

 

At the end of the day, he is a genius and I’ve watched videos of him over and over again and how he used to bamboozle people with his banana swing. Just to listen to him was great, and for him to watch me and rate me was pretty much a compliment in itself. It was nice for me to pick his brains and get as much advice from him as possible.

 

PakPassion.net: You’ve spoken about Waqar Younis and you have also previously mentioned Wasim Akram as another bowler whom you admire. Are there any other bowlers who can be classed as your favourites?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: Allan Donald was a particular favourite of mine – I loved watching him bowl. The spell that he bowled to Mike Atherton was just amazing — I loved watching that spell of bowling over and over again. Brett Lee is also someone I look up to, and Dale Steyn is an unbelievable bowler. It has been great to watch both Lee and Steyn go about their business as both are very skilful.
From the bowlers of yesteryear, the West Indian pace battery also had bowlers whom I admired greatly. It was great to watch the late Malcolm Marshall and his fellow bowlers scare the opposition batsmen. Michael Holding with his run-up was a different class, the way he just eased himself to the wicket and bowled at 90mph, it was beautiful to watch.

 

I have watched all the aforementioned greats and I’m also trying to take the best bits from each of those bowlers to improve myself.

 

PakPassion.net: You were involved against Australia and must have noticed the difference in intensity playing against that opposition as an England player?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: Yes, even as 12th man in the home one-day series in 2009, I could sense the intensity. During the Ashes in Australia in 2010/11, the atmosphere was just incredible. It was different to what I had experienced previously. There was a lot of hurt there, as some of our boys had been involved in previous Ashes series defeats and to go to Australia and to put that right was the aim.

 

We went there with the mentality of doing a job and there was a determination to get the job done. There was huge relief at the end of the Ashes series and to win in the manner that we did was just brilliant. We enjoyed the victory and it was just a pity that we couldn’t match the Ashes achievement in the following one-day series.

 

PakPassion.net: Moving on to the current Ashes, what do you make of the way Australia have come back following their defeat in England earlier this year?

Ajmal Shahzad: I think Australia have stamped a bit of authority on England. From an outsider’s point of view watching it on TV, it adds a little bit of spice to it and it has become a little bit more enjoyable. When the Aussies came to England, it became a bit of a one-sided affair and the fact is that England have been dominating Test cricket for quite a while.

 

If you keep that in mind, then it was good to see the Australians come back with a bit of fire and venom. Mitchell Johnson had a fantastic game in Brisbane – whether he can do that day-in day-out in the next four Tests remains to be seen. Someone like Jimmy Anderson has done it day-in day-out for the last nine years so you can rely on him.

 

Having said that, Johnson has the X-factor. He needs to produce that for the rest of the series. If Ryan Harris keeps bowling like he is – he’s their bread and butter alongside Peter Siddle – if they can both remain fit then Australia will do well.

 

It’s going to be tough for England and they’re going to have to make some changes. They definitely have a lot of self-belief. It’s not going to get any easier and the verbals are going to keep on coming. They’re going to have to take it and give it back, there’s no point in just being gentlemanly and saying that it isn’t the way to play the sport. If that’s the way Australia are going to go about it, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, then England need to come back harder, stronger, and fight together for one cause.

 

Australia, in their own backyard, 1-0 up with the way that they won the first Test, they’re massively confident and they’re going to come even harder so England have to be ready for it.

 

PakPassion.net: England is churning out a lot of fast bowlers at the moment. Do you think the competition for places is as tough as it has ever been?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: Definitely. It’s a time when England is producing fast bowlers and quality seamers for fun! When I first came on the scene, Graham Onions had just suffered from a stress fracture. There weren’t many people who were challenging for places, and I got a chance. Nowadays, the likes of James Anderson with his skill levels is the only one, I can say, who has really cemented his place for England.

 

In the one-day set-up, we now have the likes of Jade Dernbach, Stuart Meaker, Ben Stokes, Chris Jordan – all these boys who have had fantastic years have now been propelled into the England scene. Having said that, it only takes a few injuries or a few niggles and all of a sudden they require more bowlers.

 

We’re at a phase where the lads are staying fit. They are stronger than they have been, or the nutrition side is working for them, and we’re producing a lot of bowlers who can bowl at good speeds. There are still only a few bowlers in the country who can bowl at 90mph. Stuart Meaker is a big strong fast bowler from Surrey who can and so can Jade Derbach. The quickest bowler in the country is Tymal Mills – he’s a young left-arm quick. He’s an athlete, a strong lad and he hasn’t had many injuries, touch wood. I think it is the injuries that hold you back. Personally speaking, I want to get back to bowling 90mph because last year my pace was a little bit down. It may have been that my confidence was down or my rhythm was out. I wasn’t sure but I didn’t have the best of seasons with respect to pace.

 

 

As for myself, I’ve been getting stronger in the gym and also from the bowling perspective, I have managed to do so far. I’m not ruling myself out for anything. What you need to do is to have a good year with your county in all forms and impress. I don’t think the selectors can ignore that and hopefully my time will come again.

 

PakPassion.net: What are your long-term plans?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: The aim is to get back into the international team. That is the aim of any county cricketer. I want to be at the top of the game and I want to play for England for as long as I possibly can. I’ve got a hard journey ahead of me, I just want to stay as fit as I possibly can for as long as I can and to perform with both bat and ball. If I do that, then I will be playing First Class cricket for 10-12 years and along the way hopefully I will be playing for England during my prime in the next couple of years.

 

PakPassion.net: There will be a lot of young cricketers with dreams and aspirations who will read this interview. Any advice for them?

 

Ajmal Shahzad: I was lucky enough to come from a background where I wasn’t held back, where I was allowed to become a professional cricketer and I was supported fully. I’ve met many people out there, particularly from Asian backgrounds, who are held back from doing what they always wanted to do. Sometimes their families don’t view the careers that they want with the same degree of enthusiasm and those youngsters aren’t allowed to follow their dreams.

 

I would tell all of the youngsters out there to follow their dreams, to work hard and do what you want to do. Follow your heart, give it your all and you will always succeed.

 

PakPassion.net: Many thanks for your time and best wishes for the future.

 

Ajmal Shahzad: My pleasure.

 

(Saj Sadiq is Senior Editor at PP, from where the above article has been reproduced. He can be followed on Twitter at @Saj_PakPassion)

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Chennai Super Kings won by 7 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 22, 2014  at Sharjah

Kings XI Punjab won by 72 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 21, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Chennai Super Kings won by 93 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 20, 2014  at Sharjah

Kings XI Punjab won by 7 wkts

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 19, 2014  at Dubai

Delhi Daredevils won by 4 wkts

Photos

CSK vs DD, IPL 2014 Match 8 at Abu Dhabi

Videos

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