ABU DHABI // Mushtaq Ahmed is hoping that his new appointment as England's spin bowling coach will help his adopted country when they take on arch-enemy Australia, who will be defending the Ashes. Mushtaq, 38, who recently called a halt to his own playing career because of persistent knee trouble, was delighted that the prestige coaching job came his way so swiftly. The appointment came out the blue after he had casual chats with Peter Moores, the England head coach, and spinner Monty Panesar.
The Pakistan leg spinner Mushtaq, who was compared alongside Shane Warne, reckons the absence of Warne and other matchwinners from the Australian line-up gives England a slight advantage in their quest to repeat their dramatic 2005 Ashes triumph. "That is going to be a really exciting time for everybody in England," said a bubbling Mushtaq on a promotional visit to Abu Dhabi to watch his home side take on the West Indies.
Mushtaq, who is working for Etisalat, regards England as his second home. His wicket-taking prowess in a successful Sussex team had the captain Chris Adams describing him as "the best player ever to wear that county's shirt". "Obviously I regard myself as Pakistani first, but England is my second home and the country has been good to me. So I am delighted to have the chance to give something back," said Mushtaq, known all over the world as "Mushy".
"I believe that England can regain the Ashes and I will do anything possible to help that happen. "England have a good unit out there and you don't really have to change that much at the senior level. Andrew Flintoff is back to form, so is Steve Harmison and Simon Jones is not too far away from regaining his best. They were key bowlers in the last home series against the Australians." Mushtaq sees his England role as one of seeking out new talent. "If Monty Panesar or any of the other senior players needs my help than I'm available, but I am more concerned at the moment with the up-and-coming players.
"I have always held the view that spinners win matches, as Monty has proved in the past. If I can find England another Monty or somebody even better than I can feel that I have done my job. "I regard myself as a gardener, watering plants and hoping to see them grow tall and strong." firstname.lastname@example.org