Early CareerOriginally his father objected to his interest in cricket, but later started to appreciate it seeing his accomplishments. As a teenager, Azhar was mentored by Irfan Bhatti who played a One Day International for Pakistan in the early 90. When not doing net practice, Azhar would fancy himself playing tape ball cricket on the cemented pitch in the cricket ground in front of his home.He loves watching Hindi movies and considers Amitabh Bachchan as his idol. His ODI tenure was longer and more productive in comparison. He was a regular member of the side that reached the finals in 1999. He was also a part of the squads for the 2003 and 2007 World Cup but did not have much success. The highlights of his career were the back-to-back five wicket hauls he managed in Sharjah in 1999. He signed with Surrey again for 2005, and later applied for British citizenship after marrying his British wife.
International CareerAzhar made his One-Day International debut against India in 1996 at Toronto Cricket Club, Toronto, but did not gain major recognition until his Test debut against South Africa the following year at Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi when he hit a century and a half-century without being dismissed. He later went on to score two more centuries against the South Africans.He joined the Pakistani team primarily as a medium pacer but he has surprised many by his batting powers. His hard hitting but orthodox batting skills have also been extremely useful in the one-day game. Unlike most Pakistani pacers who are swing bowlers, he is a useful English-style seam bowler, who can chip in with wickets in time of need. In 2000, Lt-General Tauqir Zia, then the PCB chairman, said that the board would choose the next captain not based on seniority alone and if people find the choice unacceptable they will not be selected. Later in front of some senior players he told Azhar Mahmood that he will be the next Pakistan captain. Together they would plan the future strategy. But till now this never came to pass. Azhar has played county cricket for Surrey and in November 2007 signed a two-year deal to play for Kent. He was recalled to the national side for the ODI series against South Africa in early 2007,but subsequently dropped when the 2007 Cricket World Cup team was announced. He was however recalled to go with the squad to the West Indies after a knee injury to Abdul Razzaq. It was Mahmood's 3rd World Cup.
Indian Cricket League
TriviaWisden in 2001 included Azhar Mahmood's innings of 132 for Pakistan against South Africa at Kingsmead Cricket Ground, Durban in 1997-98 as the 8th best Test Innings of All Time in its list of Wisden 100. It mentioned "South Africa's pace attack had more depth than at any other time in their history: Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock supported by Fanie de Villiers and Lance Klusener. No surprise that Pakistan were put in to bat on a treacherous pitch or that they should be reduced to 89 for 5. Salvation came in the form of a 22-year-old allrounder who seemed to be batting too low at No.7: his century was already his third in six Test innings against South Africa. Tucking into a great pace bowler like Donald, he scored 96 runs in boundaries while proving himself an expert shepherd of a tail: he made 90% of Pakistan's last 106 runs. They went on to win a low-scoring match by 29.
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