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

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.