No divided loyalties for England's Mahmood
by AFP

Ground:Old Trafford, Manchester
Player:SI Mahmood
Event:Pakistan in British Isles 2006

DateLine: 26th July 2006


Sajid Mahmood has insisted England need have no worries about his commitment should he be chosen for the second Test at his Old Trafford home ground, despite the fact his parents are from Pakistan.


The Lancashire fast bowler, born and raised in the north-west town of Bolton which is just 15 miles from his county's Manchester base, would fulfil a cherished ambition were he to play for England at Old Trafford where the second match of the four-Test series against Pakistan starts Thursday.


"It would be a dream come true for me to play for England at Old Trafford having played all my professional career here," Mahmood said.


"To wear an England shirt and play a Test here would be fantastic. I know the place pretty well so it would be good to play for England here."


Mahmood, whose parents emigrated to England during the 1970s, grew up supporting the country of his family's origin.


Although the balance is shifting, this remains common practice among significant numbers of British-born Asians although the then England captain Nasser Hussain, himself born in India, called on Britain's Asian communities to support England when Pakistan last visited the UK five years ago.


By then former Conservative cabinet minister Norman Tebbit, a close ally of Margaret Thatcher, had already devised his controversial 'cricket test.' This said you could judge how well a minority community had integrated into British society by which country they supported at cricket.


That didn't stop officials at Old Trafford from deliberately marketing the 2001 Test match at the Manchester venue as a 'home' game for Pakistan, where the tourists won in front of a large and vocal band of flag-waving supporters.


But Mahmood, the cousin of British boxer Amir Khan, has made it clear to his family where his loyalties lie.


"It's a little bit weird because my parents are from Pakistan, but I've told them they've got to support England or they won't be getting a ticket!


"It will be good to play against Pakistan and do well against them. When I was really young, about eight or nine, I used to support Pakistan because I was brought up like that.


"My family would say to me that because we came from Pakistan I had to support Pakistan, that was the way I was brought up.


"But from the age of around 13 or 14 I watched England play. I wanted to be on that stage and play for England and ever since then I've supported England," he explained.


"I've got quite a lot of family coming down, so it would be good if I got a chance to play for England in front of them."


Mahmood's chances of returning to the England XI were boosted Tuesday when Durham paceman Liam Plunkett was ruled out with a side strain.


That left him battling it out with Jon Lewis for the final seamer's position in an attack already without injured Welsh quick Simon Jones and Mahmood's Lancashire team-mates Andrew Flintoff and James Anderson.


Mahmood could have made his international debut at Old Trafford earlier this season but was left out of the one-day international against Sri Lanka after conceding 80 runs in a mere seven overs during the previous match at The Oval.


But Mahmood insisted he'd put that disappointment behind him.


"I would have liked to have played on my home ground in a one-day international but I didn't and I didn't let it get to me.


"I just carried on doing my thing and hopefully I'll get my chance here in a Test against Pakistan."

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)


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