Azhar Mahmood June 2, 2012

'Playing cricket in India is always incredible'

Interview by Jack Wilson
The former Pakistan allrounder enjoyed his first taste of the IPL when he turned out for the Kings XI Punjab this year

Your first IPL is over. A good one for you even though your side, Kings XI Punjab, just fell short of the playoffs. How did you find it?
I'm pleased with my performance in my first IPL, but I have been playing good cricket for the last few years now, in England, New Zealand and Bangladesh. You're always learning as a player, and although I'm 37 now it doesn't mean you just stop all of a sudden. You're always finding stuff out about the game.

The experience has been brilliant, unbelievable. The atmosphere was great, and everywhere you go - home and away - you're playing in front of full houses. The crowd is always loud and the fans are very passionate. Playing cricket in India is always incredible as they love the game so much.

I see playing as a bit like being an actor. As an actor you want people to come and see your film and that's just what it's like as a cricketer. The more people that come, the more it inspires me to do better and better. The packed houses gave me energy, which I thrived on. I play best in that kind of environment.

Kings XI's performances picked up once you got into the country after missing the first five games with your visa problems. Do you think about how well the team might have done if you had joined the side that little bit earlier?
We could have made the playoffs, but saying we would have if I'd arrived earlier is just ifs and buts - you can't reflect on what might have been. It was frustrating to miss out on a few games and I was relieved when I took to the field in the first game. As a side we played some good cricket and I had a wonderful time playing under Gilly [Adam Gilchrist]. We all know what he can do on the field as he's been a terrific player for many years, but off the field he's a great human being too. He made it a happy team to be a part of and as a group we were very close, which helps when it comes to playing out on the field.

You ended up as one of the IPL's best allrounders, with 186 runs at an average of 23.25 and 14 wickets at 23.5. Your economy was under eight too. Your contract was for one year but are you hopeful of getting back out there in 2013?
[Laughs] Hopefully, yes. I signed a one-year contract and I think they might want to try and keep me. It depends when we can negotiate a deal but Kings XI have the first right to keep me in their squad. After having such a good tournament, people want me, and I want to go out there and play again as I loved every single minute of it. They seemed to love me too, and I enjoyed being a part of their side. Allrounders are so valuable to the balance of the team, so hopefully we can sort something out.

I'm at the age now where I want to be playing cricket. I would much prefer to play and show what I can do than go somewhere and get paid the money and not play any games.

"I see playing as a bit like being an actor. As an actor you want people to come and see your film and that's just what it's like as a cricketer. The more people that come, the more it inspires me to do better and better"

Chris Gayle made headlines for his batting but you picked up his wicket when you played the Royal Challengers Bangalore. It's the toughest question of all: how do you stop him?
He's a remarkable player, and he's shown that, but I know how to dry up his runs. I've bowled against him in the Bangladesh Premier League and in the IPL, and he's hit me for just one four. It's not easy but I know his strengths and I know his weaknesses, and when I bowl to his weaknesses, I know I can win the battle.

He doesn't try and hit every single ball. He picks the ones he wants to go for. He doesn't go from ball one, like some of the other batsmen.

How about solving one of the IPL's other mysteries - picking Sunil Narine. You didn't get to face him but what did you make of his performance for the Kolkata Knight Riders?
I don't think anyone can argue that he's a terrific talent. On a turning wicket he's basically unplayable. I stood behind the nets and watched him and I couldn't pick him at all. He can turn the ball both ways. I'm looking forward to seeing him in international cricket. There's no doubt that he is some kind of special talent who can go a long way in the game. It will be interesting to see how he goes. Some people might think he will fade out like Ajantha Mendis, but I think he might be different.

You went over to the IPL as an Englishman but there were relatively few of you out there. Owais Shah and Kevin Pietersen were the exceptions. Do you think more will follow as time goes by?
It's a tough one. It'd be nice to see more English players out there but that might not happen because of the international schedule, which is a shame. KP was amazing out in India. He made a stunning hundred, but he's been playing good cricket for a while now for England. The fans love him too.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on June 5, 2012, 9:11 GMT

    its gud to c pak players playin in IPL.. Azhar Mehmood was very gud for Punjab and i hope to c many many more PK players playin in the IPL.. Thanks a lot India :).. i am a pakistani ,, and please stop this cry baby things like India is better than pk or Pakistan is better than ind. ! this has now become kid stuff! both teams are brilliant. And India truely deserves to be on top of rankings than pakistan. Just imagine a team of Indian Batsmen with Pakistani bowlers. Wat an unbeatable team that will be :)

  • Dummy4 on June 4, 2012, 12:38 GMT

    well kiwirocker india won the last 50 over worldcup..nd were no 1 in the test rankings for a year or so...when was the last tym pakistan were no.1 in any format??a century ago i guess...nd the last test series fr pak against england was mre of a home series fr dem as it was held in abudhabi...!!nd one more thing no matter how many gr8 bowlers make have the still cant manage to win a single worldcup match against the overated indians..remeber who sachin thrashed centurion nd dat wasnt a flat pitch mate!!!

  • Bobby on June 4, 2012, 2:36 GMT

    Philkaton: Your loads better all rounders took a hiding from a lowly ranked Pakistani team on a neutral venue. England is the second most rediculed team..Just next to India. Azhar Mehmood is 37..He is a gifted player so if England is begging him to join so be it...I mean English were begging for Saqlain Mushtaq to play for them at one stage too..and out of curiousity..since when is Swann an all rounder and who is Brenson? England's last fine all rounder was Dr. WG Grace who passed away a century ago!

  • Trevor on June 4, 2012, 0:00 GMT

    @g.narsimha, if you counted-out the international players, the IPL would fold instantly like a cheap tent on the South Col of Mt. Everest. Perhaps you should just go back to watching Ranji cricket? Don't be so arrogant. I am hoping that next year we see some of the top PAK cricketers and a few more from England, and I am a South African, living in the U.S.

  • Dummy4 on June 3, 2012, 23:37 GMT

    Shame that age is not with him,still,he was vital for KXIPs success. Enjoyed seeing him play in IPL :)

  • Dummy4 on June 3, 2012, 12:37 GMT

    @KiwiRocker LMAO England don't produce quality players anymore??? Bresnan, Broad, Swann are loads better than Azhar, and all could be considered all rounders like Azhar. He'd have no chance of getting into the team for any format.

  • Cricket on June 3, 2012, 6:41 GMT

    Azhar is a fantastic player and a team player. I think I read a lot about IPL rules but still not fully clear about how the retention works? Would Azhar not get a higher price in the auction even though I would like to see the continuity of the teams as much as possible. Why not have multi-year contracts for players?

  • Bobby on June 3, 2012, 3:08 GMT

    LegalEagle-Son, Azhar Mehmood is as English as Pakistani Jamaima Khan was....Azhar Mehmood is simply married to an English woman of Pakistani descent and by virtue of that he has become British citizen. Having said that, England can have him as poor man never could find a place ahead of Razzaq and Afridi..Azhar Mehmood was very poor against spin bowling especially leg spin and was found out..On other hand, Razzaq was superb against all in his prime...England should beg him to join their national side as England stopped producing quality crickters ages ago, and half of their current team is South why not Azhar mehmood too..I mean, Pakistanis are the most vertsile talent around the globe..Just look as Khawajah..Tahir..Shah...and so on!

  • narsimha on June 3, 2012, 2:10 GMT

    SAADmirzaa,-what was his contribution , his was just an average performance , how many matches he won, how many matches his team punjab won while featuring in the team nothing where his team finished in the table , NADEEM-1976 its national shame if pak playersx in order to be sellected in ipl prepared even for change of nationality , THE IPL is already is a huge success, those envy to any that is india may not think so but that doesnt metter , if pak players included its ok as our niebghours we welcome that , but other things like they can make huge deference blah....... big talk ipl is not depended on few foriegn players , without u r players for the last 4 years it already reached to its prime ,our ipl depends on indian huge fallwing, own financial might , we love to see our heroes , at the same we enyoy talented foriegn player , whom our frenchisees bought with mind blbling amounts, so they are expected to perfom , it is not that our ipl is depended on few out side players.

  • Babaji on June 2, 2012, 23:50 GMT

    Great Player and a Great Englishman. He has done England proud!!

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