Thunder sign rising English pace star for BBL|11
Saqib Mahmood joins countrymen Alex Hales and Sam Billings at Trevor Bayliss-coached club but stint dependent on missing Ashes selection
16 September 2021, 06:05 AM AEST
The Sydney Thunder have secured the signature of one of England's most promising young talents but his KFC BBL stint appears dependent on his star not rising as far as an Ashes berth.
Saqib Mahmood was this morning announced as the Thunder's third English overseas signing, joining Alex Hales and Sam Billings, with the fast bowler in line to play in his first Big Bash campaign.
The 24-year-old who can hit speeds around the 145kph mark is essentially a replacement for fellow tearaway Adam Milne, with the New Zealander not expected to return for BBL|11.
But despite being uncapped at Test level, Mahmood has firmed as a potential Ashes tourist given England will be without two of their faster bowlers, Jofra Archer and Olly Stone, while fellow speedster Mark Wood is injury-prone.
Mahmood was in the frame to make his Test debut against India at Old Trafford earlier this month before suffering a side strain. He has previously said playing Test cricket for England is his No.1 aim.
Under recently-departed coach Shane Bond, the Thunder targeted international players who were available for the entire season.
Hales has not missed a match over the past two BBL campaigns, while Billings, Milne (during BBL10) and Chris Morris (during BBL09) all featured in the majority of those respective tournaments.
Should he be available, Mahmood shapes as a handy pick-up for last season's third-placed finishers.
Of Pakistani heritage but born in Birmingham, the right-armer idolised Shoaib Akhtar growing up and has a standing invitation from the legendary former paceman to help him make technical changes to become even faster.
That invitation came after he finished the initial stage of this year's Pakistan Super League as the competition's leading wicket taker with 15 victims in just six games.
But his crowning moment to date came in July when he led a second-string England ODI side, hastily assembled due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the original squad, to a 3-0 whitewash win over Pakistan.
Mahmood was named player of the series after snaring nine wickets at 13.66.
"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."
Mahmood's white-ball internationals have all come in the post-Trevor Bayliss era, but he said he is eager to work with the World Cup-winning coach this summer following the Australian's appointment as Bond's successor.
"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," said Mahmood.
"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."
The Thunder now have just one spot remaining for a domestic player on their list for BBL|11, with young spinner Arjun Nair – currently playing Premier cricket in Queensland – the unsigned player from last year's list.
Sydney Thunder BBL|11 squad (so far): Sam Billings (ENG), Jonathan Cook, Ben Cutting, Oliver Davies, Brendan Doggett, Matt Gilkes, Chris Green, Alex Hales (ENG), Baxter Holt, Usman Khawaja (c), Saqib Mahmood (ENG), Nathan McAndrew, Alex Ross, Daniel Sams, Jason Sangha, Tanveer Sangha, Chris Tremain.