Azhar Mahmood July 20, 2013

'I've always tried to play like Imran'

Interview by Jack Wilson
Azhar Mahmood on idols, tape-ball cricket, and his first century
15

First idol
That has to be Imran Khan. I grew up watching him and he was simply incredible for Pakistan. He was a hero to me as a kid. I watched the way he bowled and the way he batted and I just wanted to be him. I'm nowhere near the standard that Imran was - but I've always tried to play like he did.

First cricket game
I loved cricket when I was growing up and I played it whenever I could. My first game would have been back home in Pakistan where we played tape-ball cricket. We'd tape a tennis ball and start playing that way. I remember those days well - it was my first introduction to the game.

First time I realised I was good enough to play for Pakistan
It must have been when I played for Pakistan Under-20s. I had played a lot of cricket as I grew up but that was the time I sensed that I could actually fulfil the dream of playing for my country.

First century
When I was playing proper club cricket I scored one when I was 16. Of course it contained a few sixes! I used to hit a long ball when I was that age, at that time in my career. There were some clean hits in there but maybe the boundary was just smaller back then.

First Test cap
I've still got it and I'll always treasure it. It was such a proud day for me and my family. There was no presentation like there are these days but it was a wonderful feeling. My Test debut was pretty unforgettable. We were playing South Africa at Rawalpindi and I scored a hundred in the first innings. Not only was it my first Test hundred it was my first first-class hundred as well.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • captainpermod on July 20, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    My first memories of Azhar Mehmood are of WC99. A classy outswing bowler with a very dependable low order batsman. He used to bat wearing a HAT and was quite aggressive in closing stages of the ODI innings. I always remember his 02 centuries, highlight of his career, in South Africa against the likes of Donald and Pollock. Looking at present Pakistani team, Azhar in current form and age seem more capable player than most in the team. Brave Heart Player.

  • on July 27, 2013, 9:53 GMT

    i believe azhar and razzak were two similar options pak had that time but i still see he is doing good in t 20 formets in differnt leagues his career is not too much left now but i think he still can give couple of yrs to pak cricket specially when they are not playing razak kind of player any more our middle order is not so great and unpredictabilty of shahid afridi also leave that number 5 &6 open for such player atleast pak cricket should give him a try for one or two series and see where he is standing reguarding his proformance if he can click it will be a strong boost for pak batting in currant situation

  • Sorcerer on July 22, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    A 140 kph express bowler who could smash Test tons batting at Number 8, Azhar did not get sidelined by selectors, but rather suffered for nearly a couple of years due to a major knee injury (or was it hamstring) after WC '99 and later put on a lot of weight. To emulate Imran who was a total fitness freak, you need to be far more disciplined.

  • on July 21, 2013, 20:16 GMT

    excellent all-rounder. unfortunetly Pakistan Cricket let him gone... and never asked him to rejoin the team.

  • on July 21, 2013, 18:14 GMT

    Pak izz not using this man Azhar Mahmood at this very tense position, Genuine alrounder which has full ability to change the position of every single match.

  • on July 21, 2013, 14:26 GMT

    Talented cricketer who unfortunately did not achieve full potential for Pakistan as he was ignored by the selectors.

  • CricketChat on July 20, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Don't know reasons why Azhar was so shabbily treated by Pak selectors. He should have been a permanent fixture in the team as an all rounder. Even now, he can produce match winning performances, both with bat and ball in T20s, normally considered an young man's arena.

  • vik56in on July 20, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    Unlucky cricketer, should have played more international cricket. Another case of poor player mismangement by the PCB.

  • VVSR92 on July 20, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    This guy refused captaincy in 2001 & saw himself out of the team . A guy with this talent should have been used a lot more & he could have become a pakistani legend . Atleast his experience is helpful to english youth players along the county cirucit these days . A simple guy who commits himself for the team , one of the most unluckiest cricketers who could have easily ende up with 350+odis & 50 test to his name .

  • on July 20, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    Well, the days when he was around, Pakistani squad was overfilled with talent. There were far too many names which were hard to overlook to give a chance to an exceptionally talented all rounder. Being a critic if cricket, I myself realize it now that he was far more talented in batting and could have been wonderful if given a regular place at number 5 or 6, but then luck there were far too many specialists in that Pakistani squad. But anyways he played his part and earned a good name. Everyone can't be Imran Khan or Inzamam ul Haq.

  • captainpermod on July 20, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    My first memories of Azhar Mehmood are of WC99. A classy outswing bowler with a very dependable low order batsman. He used to bat wearing a HAT and was quite aggressive in closing stages of the ODI innings. I always remember his 02 centuries, highlight of his career, in South Africa against the likes of Donald and Pollock. Looking at present Pakistani team, Azhar in current form and age seem more capable player than most in the team. Brave Heart Player.

  • on July 27, 2013, 9:53 GMT

    i believe azhar and razzak were two similar options pak had that time but i still see he is doing good in t 20 formets in differnt leagues his career is not too much left now but i think he still can give couple of yrs to pak cricket specially when they are not playing razak kind of player any more our middle order is not so great and unpredictabilty of shahid afridi also leave that number 5 &6 open for such player atleast pak cricket should give him a try for one or two series and see where he is standing reguarding his proformance if he can click it will be a strong boost for pak batting in currant situation

  • Sorcerer on July 22, 2013, 6:21 GMT

    A 140 kph express bowler who could smash Test tons batting at Number 8, Azhar did not get sidelined by selectors, but rather suffered for nearly a couple of years due to a major knee injury (or was it hamstring) after WC '99 and later put on a lot of weight. To emulate Imran who was a total fitness freak, you need to be far more disciplined.

  • on July 21, 2013, 20:16 GMT

    excellent all-rounder. unfortunetly Pakistan Cricket let him gone... and never asked him to rejoin the team.

  • on July 21, 2013, 18:14 GMT

    Pak izz not using this man Azhar Mahmood at this very tense position, Genuine alrounder which has full ability to change the position of every single match.

  • on July 21, 2013, 14:26 GMT

    Talented cricketer who unfortunately did not achieve full potential for Pakistan as he was ignored by the selectors.

  • CricketChat on July 20, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Don't know reasons why Azhar was so shabbily treated by Pak selectors. He should have been a permanent fixture in the team as an all rounder. Even now, he can produce match winning performances, both with bat and ball in T20s, normally considered an young man's arena.

  • vik56in on July 20, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    Unlucky cricketer, should have played more international cricket. Another case of poor player mismangement by the PCB.

  • VVSR92 on July 20, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    This guy refused captaincy in 2001 & saw himself out of the team . A guy with this talent should have been used a lot more & he could have become a pakistani legend . Atleast his experience is helpful to english youth players along the county cirucit these days . A simple guy who commits himself for the team , one of the most unluckiest cricketers who could have easily ende up with 350+odis & 50 test to his name .

  • on July 20, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    Well, the days when he was around, Pakistani squad was overfilled with talent. There were far too many names which were hard to overlook to give a chance to an exceptionally talented all rounder. Being a critic if cricket, I myself realize it now that he was far more talented in batting and could have been wonderful if given a regular place at number 5 or 6, but then luck there were far too many specialists in that Pakistani squad. But anyways he played his part and earned a good name. Everyone can't be Imran Khan or Inzamam ul Haq.

  • on July 20, 2013, 7:03 GMT

    Azhar was a useful international cricketer, and a very good county player, who could at times bat excitingly against pace - he was a poor player of spin. He could also be a useful skiddy medium pacer in right conditions, but overall was not an exceptional bowler at the international level. It is not fair to say that he was not given chances by Pakistan - he was given many (played a 143 ODIs and 21 tests). He always competed for the all rounder slot with Abdul Razzaq and lost out to him as Razzaq was a more explosive one day batsman. Both were ordinary bowlers in test cricket (though Azhar was marginally better in certain conditions) but better than average bits and pieces players in one-day cricket, particularly Razzaq with his late order hitting.

  • on July 20, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    Remember him as a hard-hitting batsman, very capable, and more than a handy bowler especially when the ball seamed around. But, as we all know, man-management of talent is not PCBs forte. Exceptional player could have played more test cricket.

  • LillianThomson on July 20, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    To be fair to Azhar, his magnificent innings in South Africa in the 97-98 Tests were of a far higher standard than Imran ever achieved.

    Azhar was unlucky that the selectors failed to realise the potential value of him as a batting all-rounder who should have played every Test until around three years ago.

    He should have ended up with 120 Tests for 8000 runs (averaging 33 from number 7) and 400 wickets (averaging around 34-35 as second change seam bowler). But the selectors kept looking for an Imran Khan and ended up with Farhat and Sami.

    Even now, in 2013, he should have batted at seven in the Tests in South Africa.

  • on July 20, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Azhar was one special player especially against South Africa and could have been a great all rounder but hats off to PCB

  • cheguramana on July 20, 2013, 2:57 GMT

    I remember watching this guy play way back in 1997. I thot he was a real special talent. Cud hv been a really great all rounder for his country. Sad that PCB is even worse than BCCI in managing and grooming talent.

  • cheguramana on July 20, 2013, 2:57 GMT

    I remember watching this guy play way back in 1997. I thot he was a real special talent. Cud hv been a really great all rounder for his country. Sad that PCB is even worse than BCCI in managing and grooming talent.

  • on July 20, 2013, 5:21 GMT

    Azhar was one special player especially against South Africa and could have been a great all rounder but hats off to PCB

  • LillianThomson on July 20, 2013, 5:22 GMT

    To be fair to Azhar, his magnificent innings in South Africa in the 97-98 Tests were of a far higher standard than Imran ever achieved.

    Azhar was unlucky that the selectors failed to realise the potential value of him as a batting all-rounder who should have played every Test until around three years ago.

    He should have ended up with 120 Tests for 8000 runs (averaging 33 from number 7) and 400 wickets (averaging around 34-35 as second change seam bowler). But the selectors kept looking for an Imran Khan and ended up with Farhat and Sami.

    Even now, in 2013, he should have batted at seven in the Tests in South Africa.

  • on July 20, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    Remember him as a hard-hitting batsman, very capable, and more than a handy bowler especially when the ball seamed around. But, as we all know, man-management of talent is not PCBs forte. Exceptional player could have played more test cricket.

  • on July 20, 2013, 7:03 GMT

    Azhar was a useful international cricketer, and a very good county player, who could at times bat excitingly against pace - he was a poor player of spin. He could also be a useful skiddy medium pacer in right conditions, but overall was not an exceptional bowler at the international level. It is not fair to say that he was not given chances by Pakistan - he was given many (played a 143 ODIs and 21 tests). He always competed for the all rounder slot with Abdul Razzaq and lost out to him as Razzaq was a more explosive one day batsman. Both were ordinary bowlers in test cricket (though Azhar was marginally better in certain conditions) but better than average bits and pieces players in one-day cricket, particularly Razzaq with his late order hitting.

  • on July 20, 2013, 8:12 GMT

    Well, the days when he was around, Pakistani squad was overfilled with talent. There were far too many names which were hard to overlook to give a chance to an exceptionally talented all rounder. Being a critic if cricket, I myself realize it now that he was far more talented in batting and could have been wonderful if given a regular place at number 5 or 6, but then luck there were far too many specialists in that Pakistani squad. But anyways he played his part and earned a good name. Everyone can't be Imran Khan or Inzamam ul Haq.

  • VVSR92 on July 20, 2013, 8:31 GMT

    This guy refused captaincy in 2001 & saw himself out of the team . A guy with this talent should have been used a lot more & he could have become a pakistani legend . Atleast his experience is helpful to english youth players along the county cirucit these days . A simple guy who commits himself for the team , one of the most unluckiest cricketers who could have easily ende up with 350+odis & 50 test to his name .

  • vik56in on July 20, 2013, 12:23 GMT

    Unlucky cricketer, should have played more international cricket. Another case of poor player mismangement by the PCB.

  • CricketChat on July 20, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Don't know reasons why Azhar was so shabbily treated by Pak selectors. He should have been a permanent fixture in the team as an all rounder. Even now, he can produce match winning performances, both with bat and ball in T20s, normally considered an young man's arena.

  • on July 21, 2013, 14:26 GMT

    Talented cricketer who unfortunately did not achieve full potential for Pakistan as he was ignored by the selectors.