Azhar Mahmood

Former Pakistan cricketer Azhar Mahmood has no qualms about coaching England during the ongoing Twenty20 series, saying he is happy to “pass on my experience” regardless of nationality.

Mahmood, 45, appeared in 164 international matches for Pakistan and was their bowling coach under Mickey Arthur before a new regime led by former captain Misbah-ul-Haq was installed last year after a disappointing World Cup.

Now Mahmood, who knows many of the England coaching staff from his time in county cricket, has been brought in as a bowling consultant by the hosts for the three-match T20 series in Manchester.

“Cricket has given me a lot,” Mahmood told AFP in a telephone interview on Saturday. “Now I want to pass on my experience — it doesn’t matter whether a player is from England or Pakistan or wherever.”

Mahmood, criticised within Pakistan for his England role, said his situation was no different from the one he often found himself in as an in-demand all-rounder.

“I’m a professional, I’ve played in leagues with different teams,” he explained. “I know my role.”

England head coach Chris Silverwood has handed over the reins for the series to assistant Graham Thorpe, a former England batsman who played alongside Mahmood at Surrey.

Another England connection is with white-ball captain Eoin Morgan — he was with Mahmood when the former Pakistan international was coaching Karachi in the Pakistan Super League.

“They have seen my ability working with players,” Mahmood said. “Eoin Morgan told me ‘we know your skills’. They are a really great bunch of people, the England coaching staff, and this is a great opportunity for me.”

With 50-over world champions England so far maintaining separate red and white-ball squads in a season compressed by the coronavirus outbreak, they are without frontline bowlers such as Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer for the Pakistan T20s.

That means more opportunities for young pacemen including Saqib Mahmood and Tom Curran, although they did not bowl during Friday’s weather-curtailed match at Old Trafford, which ended with no result.

Mahmood, a BBC television analyst during Pakistan’s 1-0 loss to England in a Test series earlier this month, believes it is his experience of working with youthful quicks, as much as any inside knowledge, that may have led England to invite him to join their set-up.

– ‘Grown up in my hands’ –
“Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir and now Shaheen Shah Afridi — they have all grown up in my hands,” Mahmood said of his role in developing three pacemen who are all in Pakistan’s T20 squad.

“They (England) have seen my ability.”

Mahmood said he was especially proud of the part he played in helping Pakistan win the 2017 Champions Trophy and in a nine-wicket victory over England in the first Test at Lord’s the following year.

“I was glad to help them win the Champions Trophy and that Test at Lord’s with a young attack — we achieved a lot in a short period of time,” he recalled.

South African coach Arthur, now in charge of Sri Lanka, said he was disappointed by the way his three-year spell in charge ended after New Zealand pipped Pakistan to a last-four spot at last year’s World Cup on net run-rate.

But Mahmood knew what was coming.

“I wasn’t sad,” he said. “The PCB (Pakistan Cricket Board) had asked me to extend my contract until the World Cup.

“When we didn’t get to the semi-finals, I knew from my own experience as a player at the 2003 World Cup that whenever you don’t win something, or at least get to the knockout stages, someone was going to go — be it players or coaches. This is how it is in Pakistan.”