Azhar Mahmood June 20, 2013

'I always keep one shirt from every team I play for'

Interview by Jack Wilson
Azhar Mahmood talks about sharing a dressing room with Wasim Akram, and wonders where the English summer has disappeared to

Which cricketers in the world would you pay to watch?
Now, no one! I don't mind going and watching some players, but I play against them all a lot. I wouldn't pay.

What about from the past?
Sir Vivian Richards, without a doubt. I need a time machine.

What's the most satisfying wicket that you've taken?
Any wicket I take is satisfying - but especially my first one, in my debut ODI series for Pakistan. I got Sachin Tendulkar and that was so special. Sachin is a massive name and I had him caught at mid-on. It was a great feeling.

Do you ever keep any mementoes?
Yes, I keep a lot of my Pakistan kit - I'll always keep that. I've got the shirts and also Man-of-the-Match trophies and awards and things like that. I'll always keep one shirt from every team I play for, and I get everyone to sign it to remember my time there.

Do you get nervous before games?
Sometimes, yes. I get nervous if it's a new league starting or if I'm joining up with a new team. Even though I spent seven years at Surrey, I was nervous coming back because the dressing room and the management had changed. But when I'm on the field it's fine. As soon as I cross the boundary rope the nerves are all gone.

Who has been the most entertaining cricketer you've shared a dressing room with?
I had a great laugh with Wasim bhai [Akram] back in the late 1990s for Pakistan. I miss those days. Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Yousuf were great too, I had a lot of fun with them. In England, Jonathan Batty was always good for a joke.

What's more rewarding, deceiving a batsman with a slower ball or bouncing him out?
These days it's got to be bowling a bouncer, hasn't it? [Laughs] I'm not bowling as quick as I used to. A wicket is a wicket, it doesn't matter how you get them. I reckon when you deceive someone in the air with a slower one, that's more exciting. It feels good.

Who's been the hardest batsman to bowl to?
I would say one of those would have to be Adam Gilchrist. On his peak days he was incredible, as was Aravinda de Silva.

And the toughest bowler to face?
Glenn McGrath. He would ask questions every delivery. I didn't face Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis much - they were terrific bowlers too. Shane Warne was a very clever bowler and Courtney Walsh was so tough too, really hard to face. On the Pakistani pitches it was a nightmare. He'd bowl a bouncer and you don't know if it would skid on or go above your shoulder.

You've played for so many teams all over the world. Ever found it hard to remember all your team-mates' names?
[Laughs] Yes, I do! When I went to the Big Bash I only played three games and it was tough. I can't pronounce and remember some names, so I'd be like, "What's your nickname, mate?" It's easier to do that.

If you're there for a while, for a month or so, you spend time with them and you know every one of them well. But in the Big Bash I just had to turn up and practise and play, and I wasn't there too long so it was harder to get to know everybody.

"When you deceive someone in the air with a slower one, that's more exciting"

Where's the most enjoyable place to play cricket?
T20 cricket is fun wherever it is. I've always liked playing in England - even if it's so cold sometimes.

You've read my mind - or at least my question sheet. The Pakistan heat or the English cold?
I used to love this place - England - but not anymore. I bowled a one-hour spell the other day and still I'm freezing! Where's the summer gone? In the summer it's the place to be.

Do you prefer smacking the ball out the park or taking wickets?
I love both of them. I love my job.

Twitter or Facebook?
Oh, it has to be Twitter.

Favourite meal?
I love steak.

With chips?
No, with mash.

Do you play any other sports?
I play snooker. I'm now playing golf as well. I used to play basketball when I was a kid.

So what's your best break?
Sixty five, it's not too bad. We play every Friday, me and my brother-in-law.

Ryan Giggs is older than you, he's still playing in the Premier League for Manchester United. Who's going to retire first?
Him, definitely him! Some mornings I think I need to retire and when I get out on the pitch or I get in at 6pm, I'm feeling like, "Yeah, I love this", and those thoughts go. I love playing cricket around the world and doing what I do.

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