Saqib Mahmood vows to ‘make the most’ of his opportunity in England’s Test team after being called up ahead of Jimmy Anderson… as fast bowler reveals his Lancashire team-mate has wished him luck
- Saqib Mahmood has been called up for England’s tour of the West Indies
- He earned a spot after Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson missed out on places
- Mahmood, 24, is ready to make the most of his opportunity out in the Caribbean
- The Lancashire bowler could be part of a new era for England’s ailing Test side
For one of the quickest bowlers in English cricket, Saqib Mahmood was surprisingly slow off the mark as the selectors tried to make him aware of his call-up for the West Indies tour.
But given he has played cricket on three continents in the past two months, it’s unlikely to be held against him. Mahmood was whistled up to England’s squad after they made the decision to leave Stuart Broad and Saqib’s Lancashire team-mate, Jimmy Anderson, at home for a Caribbean trip which could signal the start of a new era for an ailing Test side.
Interim coach Paul Collingwood will hope that Mahmood bowls a lot quicker than he answers his phone, however.
Saqib Mahmood has been called up for England’s tour of the West Indies next month
‘I missed out on the Ashes squad obviously but to be picked for this has been amazing,’ said Mahmood. ‘To be honest, you found out about it before me. I was out here in Pakistan and didn’t have a local sim card.
‘The phone was on airplane mode with no mobile data, it was crazy. Before the announcement I was thinking, you know what, I might be in with a shout here. But I ended up having to check the Test squad on another guy’s phone because I hadn’t heard anything.
‘I was borrowing the local guys’ phones and checking Twitter for the news.
‘Then I realised why I wasn’t getting any messages when I was sitting waiting for the bus to take me back to the hotel. I took it off airplane mode and, I swear, within a minute I got a call from Paul Collingwood.
Mahmood earned a place after Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson failed to make it in the squad
But the Lancashire bowler was one of the last people to find out about his England call-up
‘When I got back to the hotel and got connection I saw that I had six missed calls.’
You can forgive Mahmood for being a touch tardy with his communications.
He had arrived in Karachi after a two-day journey from Barbados, following England’s T20 tour to the Caribbean.
That followed his successful stint at the Big Bash, where Mahmood took 13 wickets in six matches, including four in his first two overs as a Sydney Thunder player.
‘My body clock is all over the show,’ he said. ‘My sleep patterns are horrendous. The first game I played in the PSL, I hadn’t slept for 20 hours. I was up at 3am and then played at 7.30 in the evening. It has been pretty crazy.
‘I’m hoping to get a couple of days rest in Manchester before we fly out to the West Indies.
‘I want to be as fresh as I can possibly be. Of all the trips I’ve made this winter, that one will be the most important.
‘I can’t be in a position going into that where I’m feeling fatigued. I’ve played a lot of cricket and done a lot of travelling this winter. I don’t think I could go straight from here to there and play with the intensity I need. I just need a little bit of downtime first.’
As England are looking to rebuild after a turbulent winter on and off the field, Mahmood knows he has a chance to cement his place in a new-look attack which is likely to feature Ollie Robinson and Mark Wood — but not the famed pair who have taken 1,177 Test wickets between them.
Mahmood could be a crucial part of a new era for England’s ailing Test outfit over the summer
‘We’re obviously missing two massive bowlers in Jimmy and Broady, who have been around for the last 15 years,’ said the 24-year-old.
‘But this is an opportunity for us guys and if I get the chance to play I’m going to try to make the most of it.
‘I’ve been in and around the Test squad for three years without having played and every time I’ve been there Jimmy has been around.
‘He has always been someone I can lean on in that Test environment if I needed a little bit of advice or just someone I can chat to. To not have him there will feel different.
The 24-year-old has paid tribute to Anderson and says it will be strange lining up without him
‘But, similar to the Covid squad who played against Pakistan last summer, it’s an opportunity when some of the main guys aren’t there.
‘It’s an opportunity for me to go out there on the field and express myself. I feel like that’s the way I’ve got to approach this.
‘Jimmy messaged me and wished me the best of luck but it wasn’t a conversation. I didn’t really know what to say. It was nice of him to message me.
‘Little things like that from someone I’m good friends with and have always looked up to mean a lot.’