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For Sajid, practice comes first

The young England paceman believes in prayer, but not at the cost of preparation before a match, writes G Krishnan.

india Updated: Oct 25, 2006 23:58 IST
G Krishnan

Sajid Mahmood does not believe in making his religious affiliations public. Unlike the Pakistan team, the rookie paceman does not pray in full view.

Among the first Muslims to play for England, Mahmood doesn’t break his practice schedule for prayers. On Wednesday, the 24-year-old Lancashire-born said that doing so did not mean religion was unimportant to him.

“It was Ramadan recently and Eid on Tuesday. I was fasting when I was in England. But here, with the heat, it is pretty tough,” he said. “I have not been able to bowl fast as I am not used to this heat. But every time before I bowl, I always pray. Praying helps me improve.

“I pray as much as I can, but I don’t think I would break practice and pray instead.”

Mahmood is keen to work hard and improve his economy rate — which is over six in the 14 ODIs he’s played so far.

“I always have had self-belief,” he says. “I have done it before and I know I can bounce back yet again. All cricketers go through ups and downs. I was just a bit down in the series against Sri Lanka.”

“I am happy with my bowling at the moment. I did well against India and picked up two crucial wickets against Australia. I was quite pleased with that.”

Mahmood’s Australian victims in the match in Jaipur were Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting. He admitted this would give him added confidence, going into next month’s Ashes.

“Obviously, the Ashes is a different game. If I get to bowl at them again, I will be pretty confident with the fact that I have dismissed them before. Dismissing world class batsmen like Ponting and Gilchrist is always a confidence-booster.”

Mahmood has already outlined his plans to dismiss the Australians, specifically the left-handers — Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist and Mike Hussey. “We (England bowlers) had a lot of success against them (left-handers) last summer bowling around the wicket. I did it again in the last game against them. It is working well and we’ll continue with it,” Mahmood said.

Mahmood toured India with the England A side in 2004 and again earlier this year. On his Indian experience, he said: “You have got to be on target with line and length. I was not up to the mark when I came here first. But I don’t think I have done too badly this time around.

It has been a good experience.” On the Ashes, he said England were ready. “The Australians have been talking a lot. We are working hard and will do the talking on the field.”

guru.krishnan@hindustantimes.com