Azhar Mahmood: I still want to play for Pakistan

Azhar Mahmood, the former Pakistan allrounder, insists he isn’t finished as an international player, and that he still has ambitions of playing for his native country. Mahmood also qualified for England on March 17, having finished the four-year eligibility rule.

Mahmood, 36, last played for Pakistan during the 2007 World Cup. He has been a regular in the county scene since 2002, representing Surrey for six seasons before switching to Kent. He also holds a British passport.

“I’m always available for Pakistan. I haven’t retired yet,” Mahmood told The Cricketer. “But there’s nothing like playing for your home country. A lot of people have been asking me if I want to play for England. It’s like a bubble in the air. If the opportunity comes I will take it.”

Mahmood began his Test career with a century on debut against South Africa at home in 1997 and went on to score two more in the return series.

He was a regular in the one-day side for the next few years as one of the world’s leading allrounders. However, his one-day appearances became sporadic from 2003. Mahmood said it was frustrating because the Pakistan Cricket Board never explained why he wasn’t in their plans.

“It was tough missing so much cricket,” Mahmood said. “People said I wasn’t fit and had put on weight. It was just a media thing. I’ve played county cricket for nine years and I’ve proved my fitness.

“In the few chances I got for Pakistan, I wasn’t given the new ball, I was batting at No.6, or below. It’s tough when you have only the last 3-4 overs to bat.”

He said he was offered the captaincy at 25, but turned it down because of his inexperience.

“In 2000, Gen Tauqir Zia (the then PCB chairman) took me aside and said, ‘you’re the next Pakistan captain’. I said ‘no, make Waqar (Younis) the captain’,” he said. “That was the biggest mistake I made in my life.

“The captaincy wasn’t offered for a long term. I saw no point having it for one tour alone.”

Waqar, now Pakistan’s coach, was impressed with Mahmood’s fitness when Pakistan toured England last year and hinted at a recall to the one-day side. However, the offer didn’t materialise. Kanishkaa Balachandran

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