Having picked up more than 150 wickets and scored close to 3000 runs in T20 cricket, Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood, playing for the Barisal Burners in the Bangladesh Premier League, is considered a veteran in this format of the game today. At 37, Mahmood continues to be a top pick in all the major T20 competitions including the Big Bash League in Australia and the Indian Premier League.
His good form opened a pathway for him to play for Pakistan in the recently concluded series in India. Azhar, who last represented Pakistan in the 2007 World Cup has been playing county cricket since 2005 and recently became a British citizen.
â€œThey asked me before the India series if I could come and play T20 cricket, just T20. But that's not worth it for me. For example, they stopped sending their players for BPL, and IPL is not open to Pakistani players and I can't stop my opportunities,â€ said Mahmood.
â€œI asked them to give me a one-year contract but they said just come and play. But I am not 27 any more, I am 37 and I have to look at my opportunities. I have to run my family as well,â€ he added.
The player was also critical of the Pakistan Cricket Board's decision to not send its players to Bangladesh. â€œIt's a shame that we can't see Pakistani players. It's unfortunate, whatever happened between the two boards. I understand Pakistan's point of view, but they should allow the first-class players who are not contracted with the PCB. Why would you stop them from earning?â€ said Mahmood.
Not many would have expected the player who began his Test career with a rollicking century against South Africa in 1997 and who was also once in contention to lead Pakistan, to be playing exclusively T20 cricket at the fag end of his career. Mahmood was however content with the way his career has panned out so far. â€œWhen you can't play international cricket, then this is the dream for any player. I just want to play competitive cricket and that's what I am getting in all these leagues,â€ said the 37-year-old.As for his future, Mahmood leaves it to fate. When asked how long he plans to stay with the game, his reply in a way reflected his determined approach to cricket. â€œI don't have a plan, I love the game and will continue playing till my body allows me to,â€ said Mahmood.