Several cricketers in their late 30s and early 40s have excelled in the fast-paced world of Twenty20 cricket, and Kings XI Punjab allrounder Azhar Mahmood is one of that breed.
Mahmood has also defied age and established himself as a true globetrotter, playing in six different Twenty20 leagues across the world.
The 38-year-old cricketer has participated in domestic competitions in India, England, Australia, Sri Lanka, West Indies and Bangladesh, and has played a vital role in the teams’ success in most of these leagues.
For Punjab, he has scalped 13 wickets in 10 matches this season and helped the team stay in contention.
Mahmood said his exposure to various leagues has helped him fine-tune his game and perform well against star players.
"One advantage I get from playing against so many opponents in different T20 leagues is that I make a note of players’ strengths and weaknesses and execute my plans accordingly during matches,” Mahmood told MAIL TODAY.
His experience results in unique situations where a teammate in one league is his opponent in another. For example, Australian Ricky Ponting is his Surrey teammate in England but will be in the rival camp in Kings XI Punjab’s match against Mumbai Indians on Saturday.
"I think the best approach is to put a bit of pressure on yourself as it makes you more resultoriented, irrespective of whom you are playing against. As a professional I don’t find it difficult,” Mahmood said.
"It rather helps me as in such a case I will know the opposition player’s game better since I have bowled to him in the nets.
I know the areas to bowl in to limit his scoring chances.” The former Pakistan Test player, now a British citizen, said physical fitness is the key to his playing T20 at the age of 38.
"Twenty20 is a shorter match but since there are a lot of matches in a league, it’s demanding.
You have to be extremely fit or else you can’t prolong your career.” Mahmood started his IPL season this year on a good note, scalping 11 wickets in his first eight matches. But then, the team management dropped him and he had to sit out for three matches spanning 14 days.
He spent that period in frustration and was keen to get back into action. When the team management gave him a chance against Royal Challengers Bangalore on Tuesday, he repaid them by smashing 61 runs off 41 balls and scalping two wickets for 24 runs, playing an instrumental role in Punjab’s win.
"Sitting out of action for so many days frustrated me a lot. I talked to our (Kings XI Punjab) coach Darren Lehman and he said the team management wanted to play five batsmen and as the result I had to be dropped.
I was fortunate to get a chance in an important match against Bangalore and I am happy to come good,” Mahmood said.
"I took the crucial wicket of inform Virat Kohli but what more important was that I played a good knock at No. 3, which is considered a crucial position in Twenty20,” Mahmood signed off.