C365 meets Saqib Mahmood: On Anderson, Waqar, reverse-swing and that first England call
YouTube is an absolute treasure trove for the serious cricket tragic. And according to one of English cricket’s hottest properties, it’s a handy coaching aide as well.
Lancashire’s Saqib Mahmood was rewarded for a fine 2019 – he was player of the tournament in the One-Day Cup, and helped his county win Division Two of the Championship – with spots in the England T20 and Test squads heading out to New Zealand.
With raw pace, late swing and a knack for death bowling, the 22-year-old already has an impressive highlights reel – thanks, in part, to his hours spent studying one of the greats of the past.
“My action’s been compared to Waqar Younis,” Mahmood tells Cricket365. “He was obviously before my time so I watch a lot of YouTube clips and videos about him and just try and put that into my game a little bit as well.
“We’ve got similar actions and the way I’ve got to be in the subcontinent, I feel, reverse swing is a real strength of mine.
“I’m slightly unorthodox compared to other English bowlers and that’s a skill that I try to work on by seeing how he did it.”
English county cricket is replete with RFMs – nagging and nibbling outside off stump at 80mph, asking insistently for help which The Conditions are usually willing to provide.
That’s not to denigrate the fine work of the likes of Graham Onions and Richard Gleeson, whose wickets were crucial in Lancashire’s instant return to Division One. And the county produced possibly the finest ever English RFM, James Anderson – whose influence Mahmood is quick to mention.
“For English conditions and the skills required in England, Jimmy Anderson is obviously one I look at,” he says.
“I’m lucky to have him at Lancs and get to see the way he operates and the skills he’s got.
“I’m never content with where I am – you see Jimmy, day in day out, and see the skills he nails and that’s where I want to get to, having that perfect outswinger and the perfect inswinger and just doing it at will, consistently.
“He’s done that for the last however many years so Jimmy is one that I definitely look at what I’m working on my skills in England.”
But for all Anderson’s mastery of home conditions, Mahmood knows he’ll need more strings to his bowling if he’s to realise his potential. That’s where Pakistan legend Waqar, and YouTube, come in.
He says: “I want to be a bowler who can adapt to all conditions and be effective in all conditions.
“If it’s a green seamer in England, I want to be able to have the skills and the consistency to run in, hit a length and move the ball laterally, just be relentless at that.
“But then also on the subcontinent, where there are dry wickets, I feel with my trajectory I should actually bring the stumps into play a lot more.
“I’m sort of skiddy and I can get up to 90mph so that also brings reverse swing into it, and my action suits that.
“As a bowler, I want to be able to perform in all conditions and adapt to them.”
Mahmood is a thoughtful young man, and while he’s not getting ahead of himself, it’s telling that he’s already thinking about how to get wickets on the subcontinent.
“You have to keep working on your strengths as you work up into international cricket,” he says.
“The margin for error becomes smaller and you’ve got to be even better at doing it.
“If you look at the way I bowl and if you look at some of my performances, I do get a lot of success with reverse swing and yorkers.”
It’s been a rollercoaster couple of years for Mahmood. Having missed most of 2018 with a side strain, this year was supposed to be about consolidation and improvement – now, thanks to some impressive performances and the potential which was spotted a long time ago by a national set-up eager to have a look at anyone who doesn’t fit the RFM template, he’s in the England squad.
He says: “You come into the season with your targets, and you want to impress and put the performances in to get a selection.
“In my case, 12 months ago I sat down having played one game all season – I’ve always been quietly confident but I wouldn’t have expected to be in this position.
“A little bit of my preparation has been around the red ball, but it’s the T20s first and there’s a lot of competition in the seam department – I just want to work my way into the XI. Once I get that out of the way, I can start focusing on the red ball more.”
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