On February 8, 2000, Mohammed Azharuddin, deposed skipper of the
Indian team, will celebrate his 37th birthday. So does that mean
it is the end of the road for him? Far from it. Going by the current
performances of the Indian cricketers Down Under, Azhar surely would
have been a far better choice in the middle-order
that is showing no staying power whatsoever. In a recent interview,
Azhar said: "I know for a fact, which has also been reported
in the media, that the selectors had me in the side." This
statement sends out the message that the team management did not
want India's most successful captain in the team, in spite of the
So, how did this slide come about? Once a shy, endearing teammate
who went about his business of scoring runs and pouching catches
with alarming regularity (his 153 catches is the highest in One-day
cricket), Azhar suddenly found himself in a Catch-22 situation;
a situation into which he was pitchforked by the then chairman of
selectors Raj Singh Dungarpur, who was building a team of the 90s.
From a shy, unassuming lad, he was suddenly thrust with the responsibility
of leading a team loaded with four ex-skippers — Kapil Dev,
Ravi Shastri, Dilip Vengsarkar and Krishnamachari Srikkanth. The
going was not exactly rosy in the
early years as a skipper. He went through the motions of captaincy
agreeing to whatever his teammates said. But that soon changed and
Azhar began getting more assertive and aggressive, a trait, it appears,
which none of his teammates liked.
There was a change in his approach, too. Gone was that disarming
smile. In its place was a worried brow. Azhar now clearly meant
business. Soon, he began keeping aloof. His marriage too was not
making things any easier on him. Azhar the extremely likeable bloke
had suddenly turned hostile. Even scribes began to feel the heat
so much so that inspite of his tremendous record as a skipper, he
was laid on the mat and stripped apart at every given opportunity.
Going by this yardstick, if Azhar was the skipper today, there would
have been zillions of post-mortems on the matches and his approach.
A 3-0 whitewash in the Test series and a not-so- impressive start
to the ongoing tri-series in Australia would not have been taken
kindly to. But there is not much of a furore on that front. Not
as yet. Sachin is the skipper you see!
Even at 36, Azhar today is the fittest among the cricketers. And
his boast of having two years of cricket left, is not an idle one.
He works hard at his fitness, an addiction which unfortunately did
not catch up with his teammates. As of now, he has played in 98
Test matches scoring 6104 runs with 21 centuries. In the abridged
version of the game, he has played 323 matches scoring 9111 runs.
But Azhar, as he always says, is a patient man with a positive approach.
And he knows that there is a ray of light at the end of the dark
tunnel. As of now, the team management will not be able to keep
the stylish Hyderabadi at bay for long. He has began his quest to
get into the national team in right earnest running up
huge scores in domestic cricket.
Vivian Richards once described his batting "As a breath of
fresh air." After yesterday's dismal batting display, Indian
cricket badly needs that.