In his latest blog for PakPassion.net, Pakistan all rounder Azhar Mahmood writes about the successful coaching camps he held in the UAE, his hopes of playing in the IPL, the road ahead for Pakistan's premier off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and his own concerns about Pakistan's ODI batting lineup in the upcoming 2015 World Cup.
Let's start this blog with a look back at the training camps at the ICC Academy in Dubai at the end of October. The camps in association with the Azhar Mahmood training academy covered specialist skills for twenty20 cricket and were open to all standards of cricketers and I'm delighted to say they were a huge success.
The response we got from the public was tremendous and the camps were very well attended and we'll be having our next series of camps in Dubai in February. The array of talent which attended the camps was very impressive and it was really heartening to see such enthusiasm from the boys who attended the camp. There were boys from all walks of life and from many countries and all of them had a real desire to play cricket at the highest level. It was really enjoyable working with such an enthusiastic bunch of cricketers and I'm already looking forward to February's camp.
As well as the twenty20 camps, I'm in talks to coach some of the Associate teams which would be a fantastic opportunity to pass on some of my experience to players from the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan. It's an honour to be asked by the ICC Academy to work with Associate teams and these coaching sessions are likely to be spread over five days in Dubai working with players from Associate teams and incorporating a variety of skills. Coaching is something that I really wish to take up when my playing career is over and it's fantastic that I'm getting the opportunity to coach whilst still playing.
In addition to coaching players from Associate teams there is also a chance that some English county sides are looking to work with me ahead of this year's county season. The facilities at the ICC Academy are second to none and it would give county sides the ideal opportunity to prepare outdoors for the county season which they wouldn't be able to do back in England.
Unfortunately due to a rib injury I've had to miss out on playing some domestic cricket in New Zealand for Auckland in their twenty20 tournament and have also had to opt out of playing club cricket in Bangladesh. But the good news is that I've recovered from injury and will be back in training in the new year with Surrey.
The IPL auction is just around the corner and I'll be putting my name forward and I'm hoping that I'll be picked this year after missing out last year. I've had two wonderful years at the IPL and it's a tournament that I really enjoy playing in. I missed out last season probably because my base price was a little too high but fingers crossed I hope to be included this time around.
Saeed Ajmal not being available for Pakistan at the World Cup is a huge blow. He's been one of the world's best bowlers in the last five or six years and it's almost impossible to fill the gap that he leaves. He's been so dependable and he's been a real source of strength for Pakistan, he'll be missed badly.
I think the problem Saeed has had is that he's not had a lot of time to make the changes to his bowling action as the World Cup is only around the corner. It's very difficult to completely overhaul your bowling action in such a short space of time particularly when you have been bowling with the same action for so long. However I think Saeed Ajmal's international career isn't necessarily over and he can still make a comeback for Pakistan in future.
It was disappointing to see Pakistan lose the one day series against New Zealand in the UAE recently, particularly so close to the World Cup. This was a series that Pakistan should have won but the approach from the batsmen was frustrating. I'd like to have seen the batsmen be more positive in their approach particularly when it came to rotating the strike and looking for singles.
It seems to me that the rule change of the extra fielder inside the circle has caused some problems for the Pakistani batsmen and it's an issue they need to address. Our top and middle order batsmen seem to be unable to rotate the strike which is worrying ahead of the World Cup. The approach seems to be boundary or bust and as a bowler that approach doesn't worry you too much. If a batsman is continually rotating the strike and putting pressure on the fielders then that can be unsettling for a bowler but Pakistan's approach is a bit too predictable at the moment.
There's been lots of discussion about Younis Khan's selection in the Pakistan one day side and I will back him all the way. I think he still has a role to play in the Pakistan one day team and I think his experience in Australia and New Zealand will be invaluable. The issue is the similar styles of Pakistan's middle order batsmen and their strike rates. As I've mentioned earlier, the lack of singles is the problem and that's hurting the individual strike rates and the overall total. Steve Smith is a good example for the Pakistani batsmen, he's busy at the crease, looking to score off every ball. If he cannot hit a boundary his next aim is to at least score a single. Unfortunately the approach from the Pakistan top and middle order is to look to block and survive rather than to be proactive and put pressure on the fielding side.
Let me also take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for 2015.