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Shirin Sadikot in Johannesburg

Aces are here to win CLT20: Mahmood

Senior all-rounder is determined to help his team achieve something special

Azhar Mahmood’s cricketing career took a turn for good a few months back. Respected and adored by his Kent teammates, this amiable former Pakistan all-rounder has also won the hearts of his various T20 teams around the world.

He was welcomed as one of their own by the Kings XI Punjab during IPL 2012 and is now gearing up to get the Auckland Aces past the Qualifiers in CLT20 2012 in South Africa. With a couple of days to go for their first match, against the Sialkot Stallions, Mahmood told clt20.com that this time the Aces are here to win the tournament.

What’s the feeling ahead of making your CLT20 debut?

I’m very excited and happy about this. I made my IPL debut this year and really enjoyed the experience. The Auckland Aces failed to get past the Qualifiers last year. Hopefully, I can help them get there this time.

When you play for less fancied teams like the KXIP and Auckland Aces, do your responsibilities increase as a senior player?

There are other experienced players in this team who have been playing T20 cricket for a long time now. We’ve got a very good, balanced side with a good blend of young and experienced players. We have someone like Martin Guptill who is in great form. We have Ronil Hira, Kyle Mills, Andre Adams and myself. Overall, yes, we are underdogs, and it’s always good to be that.

When you play for different teams around the world, does it get tough to adjust to the changing team dynamics and the roles you’re asked to play?

Yes, it does get difficult but I’m a professional cricketer and I have to adapt. My role with the Auckland Aces is different from what it was with the Kings XI Punjab. If I refuse to be flexible, I won’t be able to perform on the field. I have to take whatever opportunities and challenges are thrown my way and own up to them. I know how to play this game and I use my experience to adapt.

Is this adaptation more of a mental adjustment?

Yes. For instance, I’ve played a few times with the Aces now. I’ve spent a lot of time with the boys and know the team inside out. However, when I went to the IPL, I wasn’t sure of how things worked there. I had to work my way into the team. It takes a bit of time, but as a professional you have to adjust.

Does playing with vastly different teams in various countries help you evolve as a cricketer?

When you go to various countries as an experienced overseas player, the youngsters look up to you. So, you have to be at the top of your game. Playing in every different team and country poses its own challenges and with time you learn how to handle them. It does help you evolve in that way.

The Aces are underdogs, as you mentioned. But what’s that one thing that separates them from the rest of the teams?

I think the discipline we have got in the team and the work ethic is amazing. The team’s been here since a few weeks now and have been working really hard on the areas of the game that needs polishing. We’re not looking to qualify but to win this tournament. That spirit is special.

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