Islamabad United have signed former Pakistan allrounder Azhar Mahmood as their head coach for the seventh edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Mahmood will take over from Johan Botha, marking a fourth change in their management since the first season of the league in 2016; Deans Jones, Misbah-ul-Haq and Botha were the previous coaches, while Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis had stints as directors of the franchise.
Mahmood, 46, previously had two stints with Multan Sultans and one with Karachi Kings as bowling coach. He was also the bowling coach of the Pakistan men's national team between 2016 and 2019. In his most recent coaching assignment, Mahmood had worked with England briefly as an assistant bowling coach during their series against Pakistan in August last year.
Mahmood had represented Pakistan for 10 years, between 1997 and 2007. He had his domestic career extended until 2016, playing as a T20 specialist across various leagues in England, India, Bangladesh, New Zealand and the West Indies. Overall, he picked up 258 wickets in 230 T20 games.
"I was part of Islamabad United's title winning team in PSL 1," Mahmood said. "The franchise and the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi are quite close to my heart as my hometowns. United have always paved the way and provided a platform for emerging players, from Shadab to Asif to most recently Wasim, all started their careers here. It is not only a great platform for grooming local players but coaches too.
"Saeed Ajmal is such an example and I look forward to working with him this year now that I take a new path in my career. I am obviously familiar with most of the guys there. It was an absolute pleasure to be the bowling coach of Hassan, Shadab, Faheem and co in my stint as Pakistan's bowling coach. Together, we became the No. 1 T20 team in the world for an extended period of time. I have played franchise cricket all over the world and I look forward to sharing my experience with the guys at Islamabad United."
Islamabad United are one of the most successful teams in the PSL, winning two titles, in 2016 and 2018. They also have the highest win percentage in the tournament's history so far.
On signing Mahmood, franchise owner Ali Naqvi said: "Azhar was with us back in 2016 and his subsequent success as a bowling coach is not a surprise to anyone who interacted with him then. Seeing the development of so many of the young bowlers in the national team over the last five years is a testament to his work ethic. Islamabad United believes in grooming our players and coaches from within, and we are pleased to have Azhar back as part of the family.
"The development of our players has been a source of pride for us, with three former Emerging Category players being part of Pakistan's T20 World Cup squad this year, but the same is true of our coaching staff. We began this journey with only one local as part of our coaching staff back in 2016, and we are pleased that our staff this year will be overwhelmingly local, led by Azhar. Furthermore, Azhar provides the progressive understanding of T20 cricket that we pride ourselves on, and we are confident that he will do his utmost in achieving our shared goals."