"To play international cricket remains a dream of mine" : Azharullah

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Pakistani-born Mohammad Azharullah, who represented Multan, Quetta, and WAPDA in Pakistan's domestic cricket is now playing for Northamptonshire in England. In 57 First Class matches he has taken 204 wickets at an excellent average of 26, and also holds a commendable record in List A cricket. He is currently the the leading wicket-taker in the Friends Life T20 competition this year where he has taken 24 wickets at an average of 11.37 with four 3-wicket hauls and an economy rate of 7.03. His fantastic performance in the competition have played a huge part in Northants qualifying for Finals Day for the first time since 2009.

Speaking with PakPassion.net Azharullah discussed his experiences of playing domestic cricket in Pakistan and now England, his performance in the ongoing Friends Life T20, and his thoughts on the possibility of representing England in the future.



PakPassion.net: Tell us about your early days, how did you get involved in cricket and how did your interest develop?

Azharullah: My older brother, Mazharullah was also a fast bowler. I used to go and watch him play, however he was also very good at studies, so our father didn’t let him play and told him to instead focus on his education. Mazharullah became busy with his studies and eventually became a doctor. I grew up watching my brother play and he supported me a lot.

At school and college we only played tape ball cricket, and fortunately my pace was very good back then so people encouraged me to take up cricket professionally. My brother also encouraged me and suggested I give professional cricket a go for a while to see if I can make a future out of it. It took me three or four years to play my 1st first-class match and after that I never looked back.


PakPassion.net: You spent many years playing first-class cricket in Pakistan, were you called up for any ‘A’ Tours or U19 tours?

Azharullah: Yes I went on one Pakistan Academy tour in 2008. It was a tri-nation series in Bangladesh with the host nation and South Africa were also involved in it. My performance was decent as I played three matches there and took three or four wickets and bowled very economically. After that, the 4-day games began and I returned home.


PakPassion.net: What brought you to England and how did your career at Northamptonshire begin?

Azharullah: I began by playing club cricket in England as an overseas player. I played in the Bradford league for East Bierley Cricket Club for three years, before getting married here in 2009. I went back to Pakistan to play a season of domestic cricket in 2009 before settling permanently in the UK in 2010. The procedure here is that you can’t play first-class cricket immediately, you have to wait a few years before qualifying to play county cricket, so I had to bide my time.

Then this winter, I was recommended to Northants by the chairman of Pudsey Congs Cricket Club, Ralph Middlebrook (father of James Middlebrook) and I attended their winter trials. They liked what they saw there and signed me up.


PakPassion.net: You’re the leading wicket taker in this year’s Friend's Life T20 tournament, what do you think is the reason for your success?

Azharullah: Fortunately my performance has also been good in the 4-day and one-day competitions, I’ve taken eight wickets in three matches in the YB40 competition, but there’s no secret to it. I spent two months playing for the Northants 2nd XI, because the 1st team was performing so well and there was really no place for me in there. I put in some extra effort to break into the 1st XI because I’d been playing at the highest level in Pakistan and I wanted to do the same here. I performed well and they had to give me a chance in the 1st XI.

It was nothing new for me though, I had played a lot of cricket in Pakistan, particularly Twenty20 cricket which is played everywhere at club level over there. It’s also played on flat concrete wickets so I had a lot of good experience from bowling on those types of flat wickets. All top level bowlers that come from Pakistan have a lot of experience of T20 cricket. I simply used my experience, God helped me and thankfully it's going well at the moment here at Northamptonshire.


PakPassion.net: You’ve now played domestic cricket in both Pakistan and England, how would you compare the two?

Azharullah: There’s no major difference, professional cricket is tough over here and it’s tough over there - you get top level sportsmen in professional cricket wherever its played. Here however, the conditions are a bit more suitable for the bowlers whereas in Pakistan the wickets are very flat. In England you get variable conditions and the wickets give bowlers more support. So having bowled on the flat pitches in Pakistan, I’m finding it a bit easier over here!


PakPassion.net: You’ve helped Northamptonshire qualify for the FLT20 semi-finals and you’ll be playing at Finals Day for the first time, how does it feel?

Azharullah: It’s the big time! First and foremost it’s a big moment for the club having qualified after such a long time. It’s my first season for the club so having reached finals day straight away is fantastic, I’m very happy and very content.


PakPassion.net: David Willey, your opening bowling partner at Northants has impressed one and all and has just been called up by the England Lions. Do you feel he can go far in the future?

Azharullah: David Willey is definitely a prospect. He has taken over 40 wickets in the County Championship. He’s also in the top 10 bowlers in the T20 competition so he’s certainly a future prospect for England. He’ll make it sooner rather than later in one of the formats.


PakPassion.net: We’ve seen the likes of Imran Tahir move from Pakistan and go on to represent South Africa, Fawad Ahmed may soon do the same for Australia. Are you hopeful you may get a similar opportunity to play for England?

Azharullah: Why not? As long as I’m playing cricket I will push to play at the international level. International cricket was always a dream of mine and it still is. Thankfully I've got a strong body and good physique and our physio at Northants is doing a fantastic job of looking after us physically - he’s possibly the best physio in the world. So I’m looking after my body and I will continue to push for an international spot for as long as possible. I’m 29 now so I’ll need to play domestic cricket for a few years before qualifying to play for England, so we’ll see what happens.


PakPassion.net: Are there any players who you wish to emulate? Anyone who’s bowling style you’ve tried to model yourself on or any player you particularly look up to?

Azharullah: I’m from Burewala in Pakistan so naturally I watched Waqar Younis all the time while I was growing up. Waqar Younis, Nadeem Iqbal, Mohammad Zahid are all from an area where I come from, but Waqar will always be my ideal bowler. I’ve recently changed my action to make my arm a bit higher but when I first started I completely copied Waqar’s action. Even now I try to bowl with the same aggression that he did.

One player who has particularly inspired me also is Azhar Mahmood. He’s a true professional and has done fantastically well in his career. He’s someone I would love to emulate.


PakPassion.net: Having played in domestic cricket in Pakistan for so long, you will have seen a lot of talented players being produced, are there any that have particularly caught your eye?

Azharullah: Pakistan cricket has a very bright future, there is a lot of talent there. Sohaib Maqsood, who has just been named in Pakistan’s T20 squad for Zimbabwe, is a very talented player and deserves his chance. Zulfiqar Babar who played recently is also an excellent bowler. Aamer Sajjad of WAPDA will also be playing in the middle order for Pakistan sooner rather than later. He’s a very good player.

There are of course some excellent fast bowlers coming through. Junaid Khan has impressed me a lot and there’s also quite a few coming through from Multan. Pakistan cricket certainly has a bright future and should progress well in the coming years.


PakPassion.net: What are the main values you have learnt from your experience of playing cricket in England?

Azharullah: Professionalism is vital in cricket anywhere in the world and I’ve learnt to never give up. It’s important to keep trying because I sacrificed three years of cricket by living here. I looked after my body in cold conditions and I didn’t know whether or not I would get a chance or whether I would even attend trials. I didn’t give up and kept trying hard and thankfully, I was rewarded. So I’ve learnt from cricket to keep trying and success will come.


PakPassion.net: What are your future plans and aims?

Azharullah: I have a one year contract with Northants for now. We’ve had a very important period recently on the field so I’ve just been concentrating on that. I’m still in talks with them, but for now I want to concentrate on my cricket - this is something to sort out later.

We have Finals Day coming up as well as an important Championship game, so I’ll try my best first in these important matches as I have all season and then worry about the rest later.


PakPassion.net: Azharullah, thank you very much for your time.

Azharullah: My pleasure, thank you.
 
Sad to see him not playing in Pakistan or for Pakistan but hope he does well - great prospect
 
Like his views about the future of Pakistani cricket
 
"To Play International Cricket Remains a Dream of Mine" : Azharullah

Really enjoyed speaking with Azharullah, he's worked hard to get to where he is and I wish him all the best.
 
A very informative interview.

He's a really down to earth guy who is really keen to do well.

Wish him all the best for the future.
 
This guy has been briliant for Northants and they need to offer him a new contract before somebody else snaps him up. Love watching this guy on sky live games especially the amount of times he has hit the stumps. :waqar
 
FLt20 finals day: Muhammad Azharullah's wait for glory

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/cricket/23685082?

FLt20 finals day: Muhammad Azharullah's wait for glory

By Chris Osborne
BBC East Sport


A romance kindled inside a Yorkshire scorebox deflected the course of Muhammad Azharullah's life and career.

What was supposed to be a summer sojourn away from Pakistan to play league cricket in England became the catalyst for a marriage, a baby girl and the success story of this year's FLt20.

Azharullah, a trusty seam bowler in first-class Pakistani cricket, gave up his trade for three years - a brief spell back in Pakistan aside - to move to England and marry Emma Taylor, the scorer at his Bradford Cricket League club Pudsey Congos.
The pursuit of love instead of bowling maiden overs paid off, with Azharullah, in his debut season in county cricket, on his way to Twenty20 finals day with Northamptonshire as the competition's top wicket-taker.

"You make really big decisions in life. I could have stayed in Pakistan and worked hard there," the 29-year-old, who has taken 46 wickets across all formats this season, told BBC Sport.
"But I met Emma, moved here in 2010 and thought I had a few years in my body for county cricket.
"I consulted with my family and they said take a couple of years off and put yourself up for trials. I always believed I would get there."
Despite being well established in Pakistani cricket, Azharullah's reputation had not reached the heights worthy of an overseas contract in England, so his only option, after moving to Halifax in 2010, was to sit tight for three years and wait for UK citizenship.
It meant a pace bowler who had accrued notable figures on the dust bowls and flat tracks of his native land - 190 wickets from 53 first-class matches - was left on the shelf.
Although his beginnings with Multan were inauspicious, 28 wickets from three matches at new team Quetta in 2005 had announced his arrival on the domestic scene.
The Punjab-born seamer continued to impress at the Water and Power Development Authority and toured with the Pakistan development team, but fell short of breaking into the national side.
"I was in and around playing for the country but never crossed the line really," said 'Azhar', as he has come to be known by staff and fans at Wantage Road.
"I had a decent job there, with one of the biggest cricket teams.
"But I decided to live here with my wife and decided to wait for the period to qualify for county cricket."
The possibility of moving permanently to the UK was barely a consideration when, in 2006, Azharullah agreed to spend his summer playing for Pudsey Congos.
But, when Azhar met Emma, all that changed: "I used to go and ask her for my analysis and figures. Then we were engaged two years later."

The pair were married in 2009, Azharullah moved to England in 2010, and their first child Aisha was born in 2011 - in fact, her second birthday falls on Saturday's FLt20 finals day.
"I give a load of credit to my family, particularly my missus," said Azharullah, who admits terms like "missus" were not in his vocabulary seven years ago.
"She has been really supportive because I had to look after my body in the colder conditions.
"I played a little bit of league cricket but my wife was running the house to be honest."
In January, after years representing Pudsey and latterly East Bierley in the Bradford Cricket League, Azharullah became eligible to play county cricket and was pointed in the direction of Northants by Pudsey chairman Ralph Middlebrook, father of veteran Wantage Road spinner James.
Impressed, head coach David Ripley offered a one-year deal to Azharullah, who turned to former Pakistan Test bowler, and his captain at the Water and Power Development Authority, Shabbir Ahmed for advice.
"He suggested take whatever the offer is because they've never seen me and they will be putting trust in me," he explained.
"He said 'I believe you'll do well and then you can extend your career'.
"Northants have given me an opportunity to play county cricket for a year and I've been blessed with the performance.


"It was an educated risk for Northants. They saw my pace and my career statistics, which are on flat wickets in Pakistan."
Azharullah's 24 wickets in this year's FLt20 have made him not only the competition's most prolific bowler, but will no doubt have attracted the attention of Indian Premier League clubs.
He has, professionally, insisted his focus remains solely on finals day but, as well as being keen to push his abilities in the four-day game, Azharullah has not ruled out a late emergence on the international scene - maybe even with England.
"It's always been my dream to play international cricket," he said.
"It never happened but I've never given up and won't as long as my legs are working. I'll push and see what happens."
Before then it is Edgbaston calling on Saturday, with an FLt20 semi-final against Essex and the possibility of facing Surrey or reigning champions Hampshire in the final.
It seems a fitting end to the campaign for a man unheard of in these parts six months ago, at a club unfancied at the beginning of the competition.
"I've sacrificed three years of cricket and you never know when you go to a new place whether you'll get an opportunity," he said.
"But you have to win people's trust. I've been blessed with that and my team's being doing so well in all formats.
"We may have surprised everyone but it won't surprise me if we win and get promoted in the County Championship.
"After the sacrifices I'm excited to be going to finals day and want to go all the way."
 
24 wickets in 10 matches @ 11.3 and economy of 7RPO is simply amazing stuff
 
It's not very often that you get a cricketer sending us a message thanking us for interviewing him. That's exactly what happened with Azhar after this interview.

Huge respect for the guy and wish him all the best for the future.
 
How former Pudsey Congs cricketer Azharullah was bowled over by love

Pakistan-born former Pudsey Congs seamer Mohammed Azharullah is set to complete an unlikely journey to Friends Life t20 finals day with Northamptonshire after putting love before cricket to earn his break in the county game.

The 29-year-old gave up the chance to represent Pakistan three years ago to move to England permanently and live with his wife Emma – who he met while playing in the Bradford Cricket League.

Emma was the club scorer at Pudsey Congs and they were married in 2009 at a time when Azharullah was on the radar of the Pakistan selectors.

The right-armer toured Bangladesh the previous year with Pakistan’s academy side and had helped his domestic team to the four-day and 50-over titles.

But following a brief stint playing back home following his wedding, Azharullah decided his life was in England.

Three years on and after completing his residency to qualify as a non-overseas player, Azharullah returned to first-class ranks when Northamptonshire signed him amid little fuss earlier this year.
http://www.thetelegraphandargus.co....keter_was_bowled_over_by_love/?action=success
Had a fine tournament thus far.
 
Very pleased that Azhar won the FLT20 title with Northants, hope to see a lot more of him in the future.
 
PRESS RELEASE
Thursday 29th August 2013.

Azhar Ullah signs new Northants Contract.


Northants Cricket is delighted to announce that seam bowler Muhammad Azhar Ullah has signed a new two-year deal with the club.

The Pakistan-born bowler has enjoyed a superb season for the Steelbacks, especially in the Friends Life t20 where he took 27 wickets at 12.6 to finish as the competition’s leading wicket taker.

Azhar has also taken 15 wickets in the LV= County Championship at an average of 26.4, and 15 Yorkshire Bank 40 wickets at 17.2 to underline his all-round abilities with the ball in hand.

Azhar said after signing his new contract, “I’m really happy to sign a new contract with the club. I have really enjoyed my time here so far. I would like to thank all the fans, coaches and everyone connected with the club that have made this all possible for me.

I am excited about where the club is going and what we can achieve with the group of players we have. We have won one trophy and hopefully we can get promoted this season too. I want to repay the faith the club has shown in me and I have a desire to keep getting better, and help bring more silverware to Northants.”
 
It shows that his performance 2 years ago was just one off and he is just another low standard player from Pakistan just like Hassan Adnan
 
It shows that his performance 2 years ago was just one off and he is just another low standard player from Pakistan just like Hassan Adnan

Most of the guys who weren't good enough to represent Pakistan and play overseas are low standard players, much like the ones who represent the UAE cricket team.
 
Most of the guys who weren't good enough to represent Pakistan and play overseas are low standard players, much like the ones who represent the UAE cricket team.

Yeah that's why we are failing in every department
 
I watched him in Semi-Final and Final of T20. Impressed with him. He is very good death bowler, with forgotten art of yorkers.

England may pick him for T20
 
The other bowler from Burewala, should he be in the Pakistan team in England?

Waqar Younis hails from Burewala but so does Mohammad Azharullah who is currently playing for Northamptonshire.
http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/39947.html
He took 6 wickets for 86 vs Sussex in the first innings in their current match.
http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/947013.html

He is very familiar with English conditions. I don't see English counties clamouring to get Sohail Khan, Imran Khan and Rahat Ali on their teams. Would Azharullah have been a better pick than these 3 on the English tour?
 
Excellent performance by him for his side PTV vs WAPDA in QEA 2018/19

1st innings : 5-96
2nd innings : 5-79
 
A clear example of jithe di khoti uthe hi ann khaloti. Dreamt of playing for England but now back to Pakistan
 
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