English cricket April 15, 2008

Axing was a blessing in disguise - Mahmood

Cricinfo staff

Sajid Mahmood: determined to get his England spot back © AFP

Sajid Mahmood, the England and Lancashire fast bowler, says being dropped from the national side allowed him to fine-tune his skills in a manner that leaves him in prime form for the upcoming county season. Mahmood last played a Test in Australia last January and an ODI in a disastrous World Cup campaign almost a year ago, but said he's "never felt better" and was determined to make an international comeback.

"Playing international cricket, there are always eyes on you saying 'he's not doing this, he's not doing that,'" Mahmood told the ECB's official website. "To get out of that environment last year and play county cricket for a little bit, you can just go about doing your own thing, concentrate on the things you need to do.

"You tend to get forgotten a little bit but I don't think it's a bad thing sometimes. You've got more time to work on different aspects of your game, and I think that helped me a lot. It's the first winter I've had here in five years, and to look back and reflect on things - think about what I need to do to get back into the side - has been pretty healthy for me. I don't want to look too far ahead but my main aim is to get back in there as quick as I can. I'm pretty confident in my ability and I know I'll get back into the England side."

A double hernia operation interrupted his career and he was unavailable for the matches against West Indies, but Mahmood finished the summer with 30 first-class wickets from ten. He believed he was in much better mental shape and had sorted out the issues with his bowling.

"It always helps to have something different, but pace alone is not going to get me into the side," he said. "Obviously, there are a few things you need to get back into that England side, so that's why I've been working on different aspects of my game, mainly consistency in my bowling. I've had six months out, to work on my consistency every day."

Feeling fitter than ever, Mahmood will need to be at his best alongside Dominic Cork and Glen Chapple, not to mention Andrew Flintoff as Lancashire attempt to move on from the crushing disappointment of last year.

"I'm pretty confident and relaxed in the direction I need to be going, and where I want to get to. Sometimes you can get in there and think it's easy, and it's not, so you're not prepared for it," said Mahmood. "My career has been a bit up and down but I'm 26 now, I know my game a lot better and I'm a lot more mentally prepared for what I need to do at international level. I know what my job is and I don't think I've felt this good in my career."

Lancashire open their season against Surrey at Kennington Oval on Wednesday [April 16].