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  1. #1
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    "I feel that I have made big strides in all formats of the game" : Saqib Mahmood

    Regarded as one of the rising stars in English cricket, Saqib Mahmood has represented England in 1 ODI and 3 T20Is and also earlier this year found himself a place in the England Test squad for the tour of Sri Lanka as a replacement for Mark Wood before the tour was called off due to concerns regarding the Coronavirus Pandemic.

    In an interview with ISport, the 23-year-old fast-bowler spoke about the enforced break from cricket due to COVID-19, his aspirations to be a part of the England Test squad for the upcoming series against West Indies, how bowlers will have to deal with the saliva ban announced by the ICC, his experiences as an Asian cricketer and his aims and goals for the upcoming season.






    PakPassion.net: The last few months must have been both frustrating and rather strange?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    Yes, it has been a strange time for all of us. When I came back from Sri Lanka, the first few weeks were not too bad as it just felt like some downtime and a breather from cricket. But it was tough in terms of low motivation levels, even when it came to doing things at home. Whilst those first few weeks were spent playing a lot of Call of Duty against Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer, I did manage to get a gym fitted in my garage at home towards the start of the lockdown as I wasnít sure how long the restrictions were going to last for. The aim really was to be in pretty good shape physically once cricket re-started. Also, it was nice to be at home with my family during the month of Ramadan. This was the first time in many years that I have been at home for the whole month of Ramadan and it was really good to spend some quality time with my family during this period.


    PakPassion.net: Whilst you were doing the gym-work at home, the lack of cricket and practice must have been difficult to cope with?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    To be honest I tried not to think about it too much at the start. But then the weather improved, and I was just thinking to myself that this is perfect cricket weather and wishing I was just out there playing or practising. Then I was seeing posts on social media from Lancashire saying that today would have been our first match of the season, that was tough, that was when it really hit me and thatís when I really started missing not being out there playing.


    PakPassion.net: Now that you are back in training, albeit with strict measures, how has that felt?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    It has been a very controlled environment and also quite difficult to manage. There are so many rules that you have to follow for example, whereas in the past you could have 4 bowlers bowling into one net, now itís every bowler having to bowl separately into a net. Even the fielding sessions are now done individually, so you have to wait for one of your team-mates to finish, before itís your turn. Everything has to be wiped down, before you get your chance to do your fielding practice drills. I miss how it used to be, that competition with the guys in the squad and in small fielding groups and I definitely appreciate all the things I took for granted before, regarding practice.


    PakPassion.net: You would have been planning on a big summer this year and raring to go, but that didnít happen, which must also have been frustrating?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    I wanted to build on last season, as I had a good summer last year. I felt I improved a lot as a cricketer over the winter from the player I first was when I walked into the dressing room in New Zealand to the one, I was in Sri Lanka. I feel that I have made big strides in all formats of the game. Iíd set myself goals and targets for this season, even though I donít really look too far ahead as when Iíve done that in the past Iíve got injured and then all of a sudden you are behind where you had aimed to be. Ideally, I wanted to start the season really well with Lancashire and add to my international caps, but it wasnít to be, which is frustrating.


    PakPassion.net: Do you feel the players will be ready once the international season commences?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    I feel that we as a group are starting to peak at the right time. Iíve kept my fitness ticking over with some great help from the ECB medical staff and the nutritionists making sure we were doing the right things during lockdown. We knew that once we started training, things would move pretty quickly which has been the case and going into the 25-man training camp this week I feel that I am in a good position. Itís a 3-week camp before the first Test match against West Indies so thatís a long time and a lot can be done during that time. Usually you donít get that much time in an English season to work on things so Iím looking forward to the camp and being around everyone, getting back into group training and getting into proper competition once again.


    PakPassion.net: The aim must be to be amongst the names for the first Test squad against West Indies?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    As an international sportsman, you always train to play, and the aim is always to play for your country. The competition for places amongst the seam-bowlers is very intense at the moment, with 7 or 8 guys fighting over 3 places in the starting XI. For me itís about being ready if the chance arises and to keep on trying to improve. If Iím being honest, Iím not sure if I will get a chance, but my mindset is to be ready if that opportunity comes and to make sure I donít let anyone down and not to have any regrets. If I donít get picked, then hopefully I use that time to improve and wait for my next chance.


    PakPassion.net: Does it help that youíve by and large had a pace-bowler as your Head Coach. First it was Glen Chapple at Lancashire and now Chris Silverwood with England?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    I believe having former bowlers as Head Coaches have really helped me. They understand what you are going through, so they can relate more to you in terms of physically how you are feeling. If the ball isnít coming out the hand right, instead of just relying on the statistics, they can put an arm around your shoulder and relate to what you are going through and thatís what I am used to. Iíve been fortunate to play under Glen Chapple and Ashley Giles and now Chris Silverwood, as all of them are bowlers and Iíve found working with them to be something that I have really enjoyed.


    PakPassion.net: The new-look rules state that saliva cannot be used to shine the ball. Is that something that will hinder pace-bowlers?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    Yes definitely. Thatís been hard work getting used to this new rule in training. You want to work on the ball to get it to reverse swing and swing normally. If itís not too hot and you arenít sweating, then that will make it even harder. As a bowler you just have to find ways around the saliva usage restriction but in the end, itís the conditions which will dictate what we try and do as bowlers. If itís a green seaming track and thereís lateral movement off the wicket, instead of trying to bowl big seaming deliveries, the best option will be to just try to get seam movement off the wicket. If they are flatter, drier wickets then spin will come into play as will reverse-swing. Those are the kind of things that you have to be aware of and you need to make the best use of the conditions that are in front of you. Hopefully there will be some guys who sweat a lot in the team and who can be relied on to shine the ball.


    PakPassion.net: Empty stadiums is something else that the players will have to get used to. Thatís going to be strange isnít it?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    It will be strange, it will be harder, because the crowd gives you a buzz, it gives you extra energy especially when you are playing at home. A big home crowd can give you an adrenalin buzz especially when things are going well, and they put pressure on the opposition which can have an influence. With no crowd you will lose a lot of intensity, the buzz and there will be less pressure on the opposition too. So, it will be up to the players to create the atmosphere especially in terms of intensity and they will need to work that little bit harder.


    PakPassion.net: Is racism a problem in English cricket?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    I cannot speak for everyone, but growing-up, racism isnít something that I have experienced during my cricket career. Whether I have been the only BAME player in the squad or whether there have been other BAME players in the squad with me, I have never felt any different from the other players. I believe that the more people learn about your culture and your religion, the more they understand you and the more they know how to behave towards you and your beliefs. Iíve seen some of the comments that others have made about being targets of racism, but I have never had any such problems.


    PakPassion.net: How did it feel to be a BAME person when you first entered the England dressing-room?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    You only have to look at how diverse the current England squad is to see that this really is not an issue. When I walked into that environment it was the best I have ever walked into and I felt comfortable in that environment straight away. You are respected for who you are, and you donít have to change just to try to fit in and I can say without hesitation that Iíve not been looked at any differently by the other players. Iíve managed to socialise with all the boys and I feel that I am getting treated fairly so Iím fine with that.


    PakPassion.net: Would you like to see more BAME players making it to England colours?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    The way I look at it is, the best players will get to the very top irrespective of their race. The ECB is putting some plans into place to tap into the cricketing talent in both the Asian and Black communities in the UK. Hopefully the initiatives by the ECB will bear fruit for some of the guys who arenít making it to the professional level, through a lack of support or whatever other reasons. The ECB to their credit has noted the drop-off levels within the BAME communities of cricketers where they are not making it to the top level, and are also paying attention to the lack of participation and progress amongst these cricketers within those communities. They are looking at fixing this issue and by doing that we might get more BAME cricketers coming through to the highest level.


    PakPassion.net: Looking ahead, what are your aims and goals this season?

    Saqib Mahmood:
    At the moment my focus is red-ball cricket and I want to improve and to be the best I can be and be ready whenever the chance to represent England arrives. If that chance doesnít come, then Iím not one to sit and sulk as I know well that that two of Englandís greatest-ever bowlers are still around and there are a lot of other very good bowlers around as well. So, for me, itís not about sulking and feeling sorry for myself, instead itís about being ready for whatever format my chance comes in, whether its red-ball or white-ball. Iím lucky that I play all formats, which potentially means that I can get more chances to play international cricket. The ultimate aim is to break into the England team in any format and hopefully by the end of the summer I will have played a few games for England, and be close to achieving my goals.


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  2. #2
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    Seems like a great young guy and hope he gets his opportunities for England. Haven't seen much of him, so I hope he gets some chances against West Indies and us this summer, would love to see him play. Sadly there doesn't seem to be much of a place for him behind Broad, Anderson, Woakes, Wood, Leach, Ali etc.


    Arsenal all the way!! (and Pakistan, of course!)

  3. #3
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    Saqib vs Pakistan batsmen could well be the highlight of his career so far!

    But I am also intrigued by his experience of being a BAME cricketer vs the experience that WI Coach Simmons has had. What a changed world we live in - or is Saqib mistaken?


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  4. #4
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    Good prospect this lad.

    Bowls at a lively pace and has good variety.

    Once Anderson and Broad have retired, he could get more chances.



  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by MenInG View Post
    But I am also intrigued by his experience of being a BAME cricketer vs the experience that WI Coach Simmons has had. What a changed world we live in - or is Saqib mistaken?
    hes giving his perspective, hes not speaking for anyone else so how can he be mistaken?

  6. #6
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    Doesn't seem to have the same pace or bounce as his namesake, if you're looking for the next akhtar
    Very similar action to James Anderson whose career is obviously near to its end.
    He just has to wait for broad to retire before he becomes a regular


    "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles"

  7. #7
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    Last edited by Abdullah719; 4th July 2020 at 17:31.


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