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Saqib Mahmood promises to bring 'fearlessness' to Sydney Thunder

Saqib Mahmood promises to bring 'fearlessness' to Sydney Thunder
Saqib Mahmood promises to bring 'fearlessness' to Sydney Thunder

Sydney Thunder recruit Saqib Mahmood has vowed to bowl in the KFC Big Bash League with the “fearlessness” and “positive aggression” that humbled Pakistan during his sensational performances for England’s ODI team.

The 24-year-old from Lancashire in England’s north-west, crowned a stunning three-match showing against Pakistan last July by being named Player of the Series after capturing nine wickets at an average of 13.66, and at a tight economy rate of 4.39.

Adding to Mahmood’s memorable effort was his claiming a wicket with the first and last delivery of his series. Testimony to his impact was the respect with which Babar Azam, one of the world’s leading batsmen, treated his right-arm bowling.

Mahmood, who said he “jumped” at the chance to join the Usman Khawaja-led Sydney Thunder, says he knows only one way to go about his business – and it ought to excite BBL spectators around the country.

“My approach to bowling is always taking the positive option, the brave option,” he said. “It’s obviously aligned to confidence, because when your confidence is up, you’re more likely to take those options.

“But for me, it’s always about trying to take that positive aggressive option to take wickets.

“I just try to be smart and bowl what the game requires at the time. It’s also always about giving 100 percent all the time . . . trying to let it go as fast as quickly as I can.”

While Mahmood didn’t play under Thunder’s new coach Trevor Bayliss during the former Penrith and NSW batsman’s successful tenure as England’s national coach, he credited the Aussie for leaving a positive legacy that’s all about “fearless” cricket.

“Obviously, you’ve got to play smart cricket, but I feel if you’re worried about what could happen, or the fear of failure, the fear of going out of the park . . . going for runs . . . you look to take the ‘safer’ option.

“For me, when you’re backed as a player, and you’ve got that fearless side to you, you’ll always look to take that better option.

“That’s something Trevor Bayliss brought in when he first came into the England side - and that’s how he and Eoin Morgan got the guys playing their cricket.

“It’s obviously great having Trevor Bayliss at Sydney Thunder. I haven’t worked with him before and it’s something I look forward to doing.”

Mahmood, who this summer joins fellow Englishmen Alex Hales and Sam Billings (who was his captain at the Oval Invincibles in the Hundred) in Thunder’s colours, said it had long been a dream of his to play in Australia’s premier T20 competition.

“You see full houses; you see close games; the standard of cricket is high, and you get some really good overseas players,” he said. “It’s a high-class tournament.”

“The main thing for me is to try and help Sydney Thunder win the Big Bash. I’ve had a look at the squad, it’s a real good side, and there’s a lot of class: a lot of match winners.

“I’ll want to build a good relationship with my teammates and coaches, but the most important thing is to enjoy it and win that trophy.”

Mahmood added that he thrived on the high expectations that were placed on him as Peshawar Zalmi’s international signing during the 2020/21 Pakistan Super League season.

He captured 15 wickets from only six matches, but said the expectations place upon him after he took a local seamer’s spot, brought out his best fighting qualities.

“That got the best out of me because I knew I was a big part of the team – obviously a key member of that side,” he said.

“I do remember there were a few question marks when I first got selected – ‘why are we getting an overseas seamer when we have so many in the country?’ – but the way I performed out there it went very well for me.”

Alex Hales, who’ll return to Sydney Thunder to defend the Golden Cap presented to him after finishing as last season’s highest run-scorer, described Mahmood as a player who’ll make an impact on the BBL.

“He is a great signing, Saqib has really made his mark over the last year,” said Hales. “He can bowl very quick and has good slower ball, so happy days for us at Sydney Thunder!

“I think he’ll adapt well to the BBL. He’s a young lad, but he’s an international quality bowler. He’ll go well.”

Michael Klinger, CNSW’s Head of Male Cricket, described Mahmood as not only an exciting prospect, but a bowler who provided Thunder’s skipper Usman Khawaja with invaluable “options”.

“Signing Saqib, in particular with his recent form, is a very exciting for Sydney Thunder,” said Klinger. “He bowls very good pace, can take early wickets and has great skill at the back end of an innings. He’ll provide great options for Usman as captain.

“He has been very successful in white-ball cricket for England, as well as for Lancashire and, more lately, for the Oval Invincibles in the Hundred.”