Azhar Mahmood © Getty Images
Azhar Mahmood played 21 Tests and 143 One-Day Internationals (ODIs) for Pakistan © Getty Images

In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood speaks about his involvement in the recent charity dinner for the British Asian Trust, upcoming training camps in the UAE and the Lahore Lions at the Champions League.

A good starting point for this blog would be to provide you all with some feedback on how the charity dinner last month went. I’m absolutely delighted with how the evening went and wish to thank everyone who attended. This includes current players, former players, the public, friends and family as well as everyone who helped in organising the event. I’d especially like to thank Wasim Akram for his time and Mohammad Yousuf who also attended the event. Also a special thank you to Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni who despite being busy with India’s tour made time to attend the event on 19th August. In addition a big thank you to all of my Surrey team mates who were there and also a big thank you to Ravi Bopara, Adam Hollioake, Rob Key, Sajid Mahmood and Moeen Ali for attending too. I only asked all of the aforementioned once and they were all very keen to support the event.

I’m proud and delighted to announce that we raised more than £20,000 on the night for the British Asian Trust and this money will help 100 patients suffering from mental health issues in South Asia. The money will not only be allocated for the patients but also for their families to support the patient. Behind all the glamour and razzmatazz of the event last month was my aim to create a greater awareness of mental health issues in South Asia and I’m proud to say that this target was undoubtedly achieved. I feel that because of this event, more people now understand the problem and are aware of it and it’s no longer being brushed under the carpet.

Now onto some exciting news on something else that is very dear to my heart and that is giving something back to the game of cricket by passing on my experience to other cricketers. I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be running two types of training camp at the ICC Academy in Dubai at the end of October. This is in association with the ICC Academy and will be an exclusive and long term agreement within the UAE. These camps that I will be running are exclusive to the ICC Academy and will be part of the Azhar Mahmood training academy. The first camp will be a Twenyt20 camp which is a one of a kind camp where a top professional is working with world class facilities for youngsters under the age of fifteen, also fifteen to eighteen year olds and over eighteens. This camp will cover specialist skills for Twenty20 cricket. This is unique in that no other current cricketer is holding any of these types of training camps which will take place for seven days.

The camp will be open to all standards of cricketers and it’s not by any means only for cricketers at the highest level in their age group. We won’t just be working on the youngster’s batting and bowling and fielding, but also address training methods and techniques and how to prepare oneself for a match. I’ve been fortunate enough to play against and alongside some of cricket’s greats and you learn a lot from them. I am also fortunate enough to have such a long career in which I have learnt a lot, so I want to pass on what I have learnt onto these youngsters. There’ll be a balance of working on cricketing skills as well as the mental aspects of cricket. One of the most exciting aspects of this camp is that a cricket legend will attend each one of the twenty20 camps.

The second camp will be a fast bowling camp again with a special emphasis on the skills required for fast bowlers to succeed in all formats. This training camp will be geared towards professional and semi-professional cricketers and will last for a week. Attendees at this camp will not only get a chance to work with myself but also with ICC’s qualified coaches on rectifying any issues and making any modifications that may be needed as a fast bowler. The attendees of this camp will get the chance to bowl to international cricketers who will be present at the ICC Cricket Academy in preparation for series to be played in the UAE or preparing for next year’s World Cup.

This camp for semi professional and professional cricketers isn’t just to increase a bowler’s pace, rather it is to focus on the skills and attributes needed to become a successful pace bowler. There will be a strength and conditioning coach present as well as a sports psychologist and other analysts too. The advantage that the ICC Academy has, is that it has a variety of wickets available for use. So, players can bat and bowl on Australian type wickets and also on sub-continent type wickets as all types of turf wickets are present. This means that the cricketers we will be working with will have the advantage of practising on all types of surfaces and not just the type they would find at home. In addition, the players will be using PitchVision technology which is fully incorporated within the ICC Academy facilities.

Another project that I’m very busy working on is a training camp at the ICC Cricket Academy for county cricketers ahead of the 2015 county season. This camp will also be for a week and already there has been a lot of interest from county sides looking to get some sun on their backs and at the same time using some of the best cricketing facilities in the world.

The aforementioned camps in Dubai are, one hopes, the start of fast bowling and twenty20 training camps that I will be holding around the world. I will be having six camps in total in the UAE and I’m already in discussions to hold similar camps in England and possibly the Middle East in the future.

Moving away from my coaching camps I’d like to mention the Lahore Lions team who are currently in India playing in the Champions League T20 tournament. Firstly it’s good to see so many home-grown boys in the squad and it’s good news for Pakistan cricket and Pakistani cricketers that Lahore is participating in a tournament being shown around the world featuring some of the best players in the world. It’s a great experience for the Lahore side particularly for those who have not played international cricket and not played in front of such big crowds. Indian crowds always admire Pakistani cricketers and this is a wonderful opportunity for the Lions team to show what they are capable of.

I hope that next year Pakistani cricketers are allowed to play in the Indian Premier League as the tournament would be an even bigger spectacle with the Pakistani players participating in it.

To even qualify for the main stages of the tournament was a fantastic achievement by Lahore and their win against Mumbai which is a very strong team was a tremendous performance. There have already been a lot of positives for Lahore and for Pakistan cricket from this tournament, but to give our players a better chance of succeeding in such tournaments we need to add more professionalism particularly in aspects such as fielding. You drop catches against the best batsmen and they will punish you. I would urge those running cricket in Pakistan to add more professionalism to our cricket and to ensure our cricketers focus on areas of their game such as fielding and not just on their batting and bowling.

As the English County season has now ended, the training camps that I’ve mentioned above will also help me in my off season to prepare for cricket training to play in upcoming tournaments around the world.

(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)