Azhar Mahmood’s 11-year international stint with Pakistan has left a bad taste in the star all-rounder’s mouth. Mahmood, who made an impressive start to his international career but later fizzled out, blamed the politics in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as the main reason for hampering careers.
England-based Mahmood is one of the international stars of the Wayamba United in the Sri Lanka Premier League. The 37-year-old has almost played in all the T20 leagues around the world. Though a back niggle restricted his participation to only a couple of matches for Wayamba, Mahmood declared himself fit for selection ahead of the semi-final clash against Uva Next yesterday.
Azhar Mahmood turns out for Kings XI Punjab in 2012 IPL
Mahmood believed the selectors’ chop-and-change policy has ruined Pakistan cricket. “Politics do play a huge role in Pakistan cricket. There is no consistency. The captain is not sure whether he is going to be there for one or two years. Nobody is sure about their place in the team. When Wasimbhai (Akram) was captain, we never had to check newspapers to find out whether we are in the team or not. We were sure to be in the team if we performed well. There was a guy to back you up.
“But now, it is not like that. Every Pakistan captain has struggled because his own place is not guaranteed. When you are not sure about yourself, you can’t fight for someone else,” said Mahmood.
He related his plight: “I have been dropped so many times in spite of performing well in the previous game. So, there is something wrong with the selection policy. It is hard for the players.
Shoaib was treated badly
“When I played my last game for Pakistan, I was not part of the team meeting. Just five minutes before the match, the captain tells me that I am playing. What kind of preparation I would get? All these things worried me a lot,” said Mahmood, who last played a Test in 2001 and ODI in the 2007 World Cup.
Mahmood felt he ‘under-achieved’ for Pakistan. “But looking at the bigger picture, I am very happy. Not many guys got more than 100 ODIs and 21 Test matches. Guys like Shoaib Akhtar and Saqlain Mushtaq were treated badly. They could have played longer. Now, (Abdur) Razzaq is not finding a place in the team because the management doesn’t want him.
“After Wasim Akram and Inzamam-ul-Haq, there was no captain who would groom youngsters and back them to the hilt.
I played under nine captains and every captain has a different way of thinking. We need skippers who can mentor youngsters.
“Now, they have dropped Umar Gul and Umar Akmal for the Australia series. Aizaz Cheema was bowling well and he is not in the team as well. Wahab Riaz too... just one bad game and you are dropped. That’s not fair,” said Mahmood, a British citizen since 2008.
However, trouble in Pakistan cricket is not the reason why he moved to the UK. “I was doing well in county cricket. I was also playing domestic cricket in Pakistan till last year. But when I didn’t get an opportunity, then why should I not play cricket in England? If they don’t want me, it’s ok. It is their loss, not mine. I am playing my cricket,” said Mahmood, who is planning to start an academy in the UK. “I was planning to set up one in Pakistan, but that did not happen.”
He also said that it will be a difficult decision to enter the Pakistani cricket set up. “If at all I go there, I would look to make a difference at the management level,” he concluded.