Staff Report

Pakistan Daily Times

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood believes that cricket has no boundaries and the game can play a part in reviving the ties between India and Pakistan.

Mahmood, who now has a British passport, said that the game has brought the two nations closer in the past and the same thing can happen again. “When we toured [India] in 1997, there was a tension between the two nations.

But after that tour, tensions eased and the situation improved. The game has no boundary. In the past, it was cricket which brought the two nations together, and I hope it will play the same role in future too,”

Mahmood, the only Pakistan player playing in the current season of the Indian Premier League (IPL), was quoted as saying. Cricketing ties between the two neighbours remain suspended since the Mumbai terror attack in 2008 and Mahmood said the people of the both nations wanted peace.

“I hope the tensions between the two countries ease, and like two good neighbours, we live together and move forward. That will be good for every Pakistani and Indian as well. We want peace,” he said.

Mahmood, who is playing for Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, had faced visa problems before coming to India. But the 37-year-old said that the incident was a part of history now.

“The issue is over, done and dusted. It’s been a wonderful experience to play in the IPL, where top players from around the world share the same dressing room. I am quite happy to be part of Kings XI Punjab and the IPL.”

Mahmood also feels that the current Pakistan team is doing well under the leadership of Misbahul Haq and the appointment of the experienced Dav Whatmore will also help them improve further.

“The team has been playing well under Misbahul Haq. Barring ODIs against England, they haven’t lost a series. The coach Dav Whatmore also knows the [Pakistani] culture very well from his experience in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I think Pakistani cricket is in safe hands.”

Azhar Mehmood with Saqlain Mushtaq at Azhar Mehmood Academy launch during benefit dinner – Picture courtesy Ebba Azhar

Azhar Mehmood with Saqlain Mushtaq at Azhar Mehmood Academy launch during benefit dinner – Picture courtesy Ebba Azhar

Mahmood, who represented Pakistan in 143 ODIs and 21 Tests, also said that he was not averse to playing for Pakistan in future. “I never said no to them [the PCB]. But it’s in the air and anything can happen. I want to play competitive cricket, which I am playing [at present]. But if an opportunity comes my way, I will think about it,” he said, adding that at 37 he was not getting any younger and would have to weigh his options as he was traveling around to the world to play the game.

Mahmood, whose inclusion has helped Punjab strike the right balance, said he was pleased with his performance so far. “Everybody is chipping in with the ball and bat. We are placed at No. 4 [in the points table] and if we can win [another] 2-3 games, we have got really a good chance to proceed further. I have heard many people saying that it has made the difference since I joined the side [Punjab], which is quite pleasing.”

Mahmood, who has been among the wickets and making useful contributions with the bat lower down the order, said he would love to bat at No. 3 or 4, but that call is not his. “It’s not about me, it’s about getting the team balance right. If I get an opportunity to bat up the order, I would love it.

However, the important thing is to win games.” He also said that IPL had helped in scouting young talent and praised team’s youngsters like Mandeep Singh and Parvinder Awana for putting up a good show.

“We [Punjab] don’t have big names, but youngsters are putting in a lot of energy. We like each other’s company and each other’s success,” he said.

Mahmood has high regards for Sachin Tendulkar and said getting a batsman of his calibre out was always an achievement and brought a special feeling. “There is no doubt that he is the best player in the world,” said Mahmood.