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By Azhar Mahmood
So what am I up to these days? Well, the T20 blast has been in full swing and Surrey have qualified for the quarter-finals and the Royal London 50 over tournament which started on Sunday. But, more of that later.
My wife and I have also been extremely busy organising my benefit dinner in support of a charity event too which will be a celebration of my career and also double-up as a fund-raising dinner for the British Asian Trust. Very recently I was honoured to be the first Pakistani player to become an ambassador of one of the Prince’s charities ‘The British Asian Trust’. I decided I wanted to do more via my benefit dinner and hence offer my support to the trust specifically for the mental health programmes in South Asian countries.
So, as you can imagine, it’s been a hectic time playing cricket and organising the dinner which will be held on August 19 at a London venue.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Surrey County Cricket Club for their support with my benefit dinner. I’ve spent eight very happy seasons at the club and they have always been good to me. All my Surrey team mates will attend the event, Yuvraj Singh will also attend. In addition other members of the India squad who are touring England will also be there, as will Sourav Ganguly.
Zaheer Khan, whilst he’s currently in India, has said to me that he will come all the way from India to attend the event . He told me that he’s very supportive of this charity and would dearly love to attend and help the cause, which is a fantastic gesture by him.
Whilst on the field, we had our run-ins and things got heated with the Indian players, off the field we have always been good friends and the fact that so many of them are ready to support the charity event speaks volumes for them all.
Mohammad Yousuf, Shoaib Akhtar and my former Surrey captain Adam Hollioake will also be in attendance as well as Kent and former England batsman Rob Key and also former England and Surrey wicket-keeper/batsman Alec Stewart. And last, but by no means least, the legend Wasim Akram will also grace us with his presence. He’s been one of my most favourite and supportive captains.
From the current England set-up, Ravi Bopara and Moeen Ali will also be present and my current Surrey teammate Tillakaratne Dilshan will also try his best to attend. I’m absolutely delighted that players from all over the world and of all nationalities are supporting the cause.
Normally what happens with a benefit event is that the player gets all of the money raised and collected. However, what I have stated is that I want all monies raised on August 19 to be given to the British Asian Trust, for whom I am now an ambassador. On the night, various items will be auctioned, including bats signed by the likes of Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar.
The money raised will go towards supporting mental health patients in South Asia, covering Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. This is an issue that is taboo amongst South Asian communities and I want to bring it to the world’s attention and that’s why I chose to support this program. I’ve played cricket in all of those countries and know that mental health problems are ignored and there is very little help for patients.
The format of the evening will be the auction, dinner and also a question and answer with myself and Wasim Akram. We’ll open the Q & A to the audience to interact with Wasim and I, and to ask us any questions about Pakistan cricket, our careers and cricket in general. There will also be a question and answer with Adam Hollioake and I about Surrey and the successes we have enjoyed with Surrey.
It promises to be a memorable occasion with lots of cricketing stars present. I hope everyone supports the event and we raise lots of money for a worthy cause.
Moving on to the cricket with Surrey this season. Well I’m delighted to have helped Surrey to the quarter-finals of the T20 blast where we will face Worcestershire next week. Hopefully we can make it to another finals day in Birmingham and win the title this time around. I’m feeling in good shape and I’m closing in on the milestone of 4000 runs and 200 wickets in 20-over cricket so that will be fantastic if I reach that landmark soon. Inshallah.
(Azhar Mahmood is a former Pakistan all-rounder who played 21 Tests and 143 One-Day Internationals (ODIs). On Test debut in South Africa, he smashed a ton and a fifty. His international career spanned from 1996 to 2007. Mahmood has also been a regular in country cricket having turned out for Kent and Surrey, excelling in T20 cricket in particular. His exploits in the shortest format have won him fame and he has played for Kings XI Punjab, Auckland, Barbados Tridents, Dhaka Gladiators, Barisal Burners, Wayamba United, Sydney Thunder and Cape Cobras)
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