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Team Talk STORY
Streetwise Saj aiming high

According to the man himself, Lancashire will be able to call upon a much improved and more “streetwise” Sajid Mahmood when the county season begins on Sunday.

The Red Rose speedster has spent the latter part of his winter on a tour of New Zealand with the England Lions squad, something which he hopes will be another stepping stone to a full international recall.

Mahmood, 27, knows that his lack of consistency was the main reason why his international career, which also included eight Test matches, hit the buffers. But he is convinced that he is now ready for a return to the big time.

“I realised why I was left out, because of my consistency,” said the man who took 51 wickets in all competitions for Lancashire last summer. “I have gone back and worked really hard at that.

“It showed that I was working on that last season, and I have worked really hard again this winter. Hopefully you will see more improvements this season.

“It was an accuracy thing. My pace has never really been a problem, but I have just been working on accuracy and getting the ball in pretty good areas. I think that it is coming out well at the moment. I can’t wait to get into that match situation now to test it.”

“I don’t think that I am too far away (from playing for England). All I need to do now is have a really good start with Lancs. I need to take a lot of wickets.

“My pace is there, consistency is getting better all the time, I am a lot more streetwise both mentally and physically, I am also a lot stronger. When I was a little bit younger, it was just a case of go and bowl. There was nothing else to it. I have matured a lot as a cricketer.

“I think everyone will see a slightly different me, someone who can hit an area consistently. I have been working pretty hard on it, and I will be pretty disappointed if I can’t do it this year.

“I have had time out from my international career to reflect on what I want to improve on to be able to get back into that side. I have been working on that really hard. Last season I had a pretty consistent season compared to the four or five years before. I think that my game is moving forward.

“I have had a tour out to New Zealand, and I thought that I showed improvements there as well. I think that I am ready to play for England again. That is my main ambition, to get back into that England shirt as quickly as possible.”

Mahmood’s first county game of 2009 will be the Friends Provident Trophy game against Glamorgan this Sunday, April, 19.

He has been training with Lancs since arriving back from New Zealand, and has also noticed an improvement in his county colleagues thanks to the arrival of Peter Moores, someone who worked with Mahmood at the ECB Academy.

“I think the boys are really enjoying having someone who has worked with the best players in the world in KP and Freddie,” he said. “He has not dropped his standards because we are a county team. He brings a lot of energy to the side.

“A lot of the lads are working really hard at the moment. We are doing two sessions a day, whereas normally we would only do one. He has been really intense. You can see an improvement in everyone’s game.

“I think that he will do pretty well this year.”
Graham Hardcastle
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
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