Azhar Mahmood has the experience of playing in T20 leagues all over the cricketing world © PTI
By Amir Husain
Azhar Mahmood‘s international career saw him play 21 Tests, scoring 900 runs and taking 39 wickets, as well as featuring in 143 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) scoring 1521 runs and taking 123 wickets between 1996 and 2007.
With his international career on hold, Azhar decided to move to the United Kingdom (UK) to play county cricket and look for opportunities around the globe. In this regard, he has played in a variety of domestic competitions in Pakistan and around the world such as the Indian Premier League (IPL), Ram Slam Twenty20 (T20), Big Bash League (BBL), Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), Caribbean Premier League (CPL) and others, where he has represented teams including Surrey, Lions, Auckland, Barbados Tridents, Barisal Burners, Dhaka Gladiators, Kent and Kings XI Punjab (KXIP).
At 39 years of age, Azhar is a seasoned campaigner who has played alongside and against most of the world’s best cricketers and as he stated to PakPassion.net, he wishes to pass on his experience to his countrymen should the opportunity arise. He is particularly keen to offer his assistance as Pakistan prepare for the International Cricket Council‘s (ICC) premier ICC World T20 2014 in Bangladesh.
“I owe a debt of gratitude to my country and whatever I have achieved playing cricket, I have done so because of Pakistan. It doesn’t matter where or which country I have played cricket in, the fact is that I am a Pakistani first. We may go away from our countries to earn a better living but we can never forget our roots and it would be an honour to give something back to Pakistan cricket” stated Azhar.
With the departure of head coach Dav Whatmore and fielding coach Julien Fountain, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has decided to avail itself of services of some well known former Pakistani players as coaching staff. Whilst Azhar was in awe of the experience and reputation of these personalities, he wondered if the knowledge was relevant to the challenges facing the team.
“We have some very well respected ex-players as coaches. For example, we have Shoaib Mohammad who was undoubtedly an excellent fielder during his time but is he really capable of replacing a professional like Julien Fountain? The same goes for Zaheer Abbas who was one the greatest batsmen of his time but has he ever played T20 cricket? Does he understand the pressures involved?”
“What you need is a person who has played cricket recently and who can provide genuine insight and help to players. Unfortunately, these appointments are an example of short term thinking and nothing more.”
With the experience of almost 200 T20 games where he has amassed over 3,700 runs and taken 224 wickets against the veritable who’s who of T20s, Azhar feels that he has the ideal background to guide Pakistani players in an important tournament like ICC World T20 2014. With this in mind, he has presented what he feels are impeccable credentials for helping the country of his birth.
“I am always there and if I am given an opportunity, I’m ready to help the Pakistani boys before and during the World T20. I haven’t formally made an offer but have spoken to someone in the PCB and told them that I am available if needed. I have reminded them that with the World T20 approaching fast, they should consider my experience which consists of close to 200 T20 games around the world. Essentially, I simply want an opportunity to pass on my experience and am not looking for a position as a coach or an assistant coach, otherwise the current staff may feel threatened by my presence.”
“You may call me a mentor or a consultant — someone who can sit with the players and talk with them and share my knowledge of the game. This can be useful, especially if you consider that I have played two T20 tournaments in Bangladesh where the World T20 is being held and I can talk about how they can handle tough situations during the games being held there. ”
Given the recent issues in Pakistan’s batting fortunes and also a dip in their bowling form, many would consider Azhar’s offer of help as a golden opportunity to leverage knowledge off a player who has a wealth of experience in this form of the game, which could prove to be a crucial advantage for Pakistan.
Azhar added “In the past year or so, I have played some excellent cricket round the world and have performed really well. What Pakistan need is a person like me who can provide support and help to our players as I feel that they are not mentally strong. This is a recurring problem with our cricketers. Not only does the team need a mentor who understands the psychology of the players, one must also consider the fact that I have played against the top players in the world such as Chris Gayle, Sunil Narine and Virat Kohli recently. I have batted and bowled against all these players and I have a very good idea of their weaknesses and strengths. I am confident that I can pass on some very useful knowledge to our Pakistani boys.”
Azhar’s offer to help at a crucial time is an offer that the PCB would be well advised to take up as they look to improve Pakistan’s standing in international cricket.
(Amir Husain is Senior Editor at PakPassion.net. The above article is reproduced with permission from http://pakpassion.net/)