Ajmal Shahzad June 4, 2012

'When I was younger I used to bowl like Shoaib'

Interview by Myles Hodgson
Grilled-chicken fiend Ajmal Shahzad is quite the mimic when it comes to other bowlers

You have just moved from your native Yorkshire to Lancashire on loan. There were several other counties interested in you, so why did you choose Lancashire?
There were a few reasons. Glen Chapple has been on the top of his game for the last few years and I want to learn as much as I can off him before he decides to call it a day. I wanted to work with Peter Moores as well. I've heard rave reviews about him as a coach and hopefully he can help develop my game.

Presumably moving to Lancashire meant you also didn't have to travel far from where you live?
Locality was also important. I didn't want to be travelling up and down the country or moving about too much. I just wanted to go somewhere and start playing some cricket. I'm on the road a bit now, travelling from Yorkshire, staying in hotels, and the odd night with Ashwell Prince. It's different but I'm enjoying it and I've just got to embrace it.

How are you finding all the roadworks on the M62 motorway from Yorkshire to Old Trafford that have reduced the speed to 50mph for many miles?
It's an absolute nightmare. You're cruising at around 70mph and then you get miles and miles of 50mph and it takes you ages to get through it. If we're training, I have to set off from Yorkshire at 6.30am just so I can get there for 8.30am and start training at 9am, but you've just got to get on with it.

How easy has it been to fit into a new dressing room?
I thought it would be a tricky period for me, trying to fit in with the boys, but it happened seamlessly. I've got a few friends here, Saj Mahmood being one of the main ones, and that allowed me to fit straight in. The three days we had rained off down in Sussex [before Shahzad's debut] allowed me to get to know the rest of the squad.

What has the crowd reaction from Lancashire fans been towards you, bearing in mind the great rivalry with Yorkshire?
I got a really good reception from the crowd on my home debut at Old Trafford. My first over went well, so they clapped me in and then I bowled a wide or a no-ball and then a few more wides and they were on my back and gave me abuse! That sort of thing also used to happen at Yorkshire, but I had credit in the bank there and hopefully I can do that here.

Fans at your drawn Championship match against Middlesex at Aigburth saw you change your action for part of the final day. Why was that?
I have a natural inswinger, so when the ball reverses, I swing it away. If I want to get a Waqar Younis-type inswinging yorker when it's reversing, I have to get a bit more slingy in my action, and that's what I tried on the final day against Middlesex. It was such a placid wicket and they were 150-odd for one, so I thought "anything goes here", and the boys were happy for me to do it.

"I think I can bowl like Muttiah Muralitharan and I'm getting decent at it now. I keep saying to Glen Chapple that he should let me try it in a game!"

Some people said you looked like Shoaib Akhtar...
The boys were telling me to bowl like Shoaib Akhtar, so that's what I was trying. It got to the phase of the game where you were allowed to do what you wanted to do and it was good to just go out and enjoy your cricket.

What other cricketers can you mimic?
When I was younger I really used to bowl like Shoaib, but I had to stop because it put too much pressure on my back. I watch a lot of cricket on TV, so I must admit I've tried bowling like people in the nets. I think I can bowl like Muttiah Muralitharan, and I'm getting decent at it now. I keep saying to Glen Chapple that he should let me try it in a game! Adil Rashid at Yorkshire is brilliant at bowling like Saeed Ajmal in the nets - I used to get him to bowl at me like that so I could practise against it.

What are you like at other sports?
I played badminton for Yorkshire from Under-15s to Under-17s, but again, it wasn't really doing my back much good, so I had to give it up once I took up cricket seriously. I was good at squash and racket sports in general. I'm not really one for going out on the golf course. I tried to get into it but I'd rather put my feet up on a day off. You rarely get days off, and now that I'm on the move it's even worse.

What music do you like?
I like my dance music but I haven't managed to influence the boys in the Lancashire dressing room at the moment. Steven Croft is the DJ man, so I'm just letting him get on with it, see how he gets on and then I can try and introduce a few of my tunes.

What are you like at cooking and what can you cook?
I'm not very domesticated at all. I know this sounds really lame but I've just started doing boiled eggs and things like that. I can do potatoes but I'm not really a cook.

Anybody who follows you on Twitter will know that you eat at Nando's a lot. What's so good about it?
I'm at Nando's most of the time, which I get a lot of abuse for on Twitter, with people telling me I should branch out to other places. I just love it in there. I can get my grilled chicken with rice or whatever, and it's healthy too. A lot of cricketers go - I think we should get a loyalty card going because we spend enough money there! When I stay with Ashwell and we talk about what we're going to eat, he says to me, "I know what you're thinking", because he knows I want to go to Nando's.

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