Two-time Pakistan Super League (PSL) champions Islamabad United have confirmed that former pacer Azhar Mahmood, who had a stint with the franchise back in 2016 as bowling coach, will be taking over as the head coach of the franchise from the forthcoming season. Azhar, who had worked previously as the bowling coach of also Karachi Kings and Multan Sultans and the Pakistan national team, will be succeeding South Africa's Johan Botha.
Islamabad topped the table in the group stages of PSL 2021, but were knocked out in the Eliminator by Peshawar Zalmi.
"Azhar was with us back in 2016 and his subsequent success as a bowling coach is not a surprise to anyone who interacted with him then. Seeing the development of so many of the young bowlers in the national team over the last five years is a testament to his work ethic. Islamabad United believes in grooming our players and coaches from within, and we are pleased to have Azhar back as part of the family,” franchise owner Ali Naqvi said, reported ESPN Cricinfo.
"The development of our players has been a source of pride for us, with three former Emerging Category players being part of Pakistan's T20 World Cup squad this year, but the same is true of our coaching staff.
“We began this journey with only one local as part of our coaching staff back in 2016, and we are pleased that our staff this year will be overwhelmingly local, led by Azhar. Furthermore, Azhar provides the progressive understanding of T20 cricket that we pride ourselves on, and we are confident that he will do his utmost in achieving our shared goals."
Azhar, meanwhile, expressed delight over returning to the coaching set-up of the franchise.
"I was part of Islamabad United's title winning team in PSL 1," Mahmood said.
"The franchise and the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi are quite close to my heart as my hometowns. United have always paved the way and provided a platform for emerging players, from Shadab to Asif to most recently Wasim, all started their careers here. It is not only a great platform for grooming local players but coaches too.
"Saeed Ajmal is such an example and I look forward to working with him this year now that I take a new path in my career as the Head Coach of Islamabad United. I am obviously familiar with most of the guys there. It was an absolute pleasure to be the bowling coach of Hassan, Shadab, Faheem and co in my stint as Pakistan's bowling coach.
"Together we became the number 1 T20 team in the world for an extended period of time. I have played franchise cricket all over the world and I look forward to sharing my experience with the guys at Islamabad United," he added.