Mohammad Azharuddin is an Indian politician, former cricketer who was the Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha from Moradabad. He was renowned as an elegant middle-order batsman and captain of the Indian cricket team in 47 tests and 174 one day matches during the 1990s. His international playing career came to an end when he was found to be involved in a match-fixing scandal in 2000 and subsequently banned by the BCCI for life. In 2012, the Andhra Pradesh High Court declared the life ban illegal. A division bench of the high court set aside the order of the City Civil Court, which had upheld the ban after Azharuddin had challenged it. But by then he was 49 years old and too old to get back on the pitch. He said he was happy the issue was over and done with, and he would not be taking any further legal action: “It was a long drawn out legal case and it was painful. We fought in the court for 11 years. Finally the verdict has come and I am happy that the ban has been lifted by the court.
“I am not going to take any legal action against any authority and I don’t want to blame anybody for this also. Whatever had to happen has happened. I don’t have any complaint.” In 2009, Azharuddin was elected as a member of the Parliament from Moradabad on an Indian National Congress party ticket.
In September 2019, Azharuddin elected as the President of Hyderabad Cricket Association.
Early Life and Education
Azharuddin was born in Hyderabad to Mohammad Azizuddin and Yousuf Sultana. He attended All Saints High School, Hyderabad and graduated from Nizam College, Osmania University with a Bachelor of Commerce degree.
Born in the Nizam town of Hyderabad in the then state of Andhra Pradesh,(now Telangana), Azhar boasted of prodigious talent with the bat and was renowned for his wristy strokes on the leg side, much like Zaheer Abbas, Greg Chappell and Vishwanath. Azharuddin made his debut for the Indian cricket team in Test cricket in 1984 against England at Eden Gardens in Kolkata on 31 December 1984 and hit three centuries in his first three matches, a feat that has never been matched, Three years after he made his first-class debut for Hyderabad. Azhar was heralded as a batting genius and this opinion grew stronger when he thumped his way to an aggressive 121 against England at Lord’s in 1990. This was the Test where Gooch had pummeled the Indian bowlers all over to bring up his 333 and India were faced with the prospect of a follow on when Azhar came in to bat at number five. Against a quality bowling attack, he brought up his hundred off just 88 balls in a losing cause. Former England cricketer Vic Marks called it “the most dazzling Test century” he had ever witnessed, in his column in the Observer.
Predominantly a middle order batsman, Azharuddin was known for his attacking brand of cricket irrespective of the situation of the game and his superb catching in the slip cordon and outfield. Indeed, at the time of his forced retirement, he was arguably India’s best fielder, even at the age of 37. Although his technique against the short ball was a bit dodgy, he resorted to instinctive stroke-play to counter it. Azharuddin scored a total of 22 centuries in test cricket, at an average of 45 and in ODIs at an average of around 37. As a fielder, he took 156 catches in ODI cricket. He played 99 test matches with a highest score of 199, scored against Sri Lanka. He was also the first player to play in 300 ODIs. Till date, Azharuddin is the only cricketer with the distinction of scoring a century in each of his first three Tests. He did this in his debut series against England. Azhar started his career with a 110 against England in Kolkata in 1984 and ended with a 102 against South Africa in Banglaore in 2000 thus, becoming the only Indian and the fifth batsman ever to score a century in his first and last Test matches.
Azhar is the greatest player of india after Sunil Gawasker. Azharuddin scored a record-equalling century for an India player in the Second Test at Calcutta during South Africa’s India tour in 1996-97. In reply to South Africa’s first innings score of 428, Azharuddin brought up his century off 74 deliveries, equalling Kapil Dev’s record for the fastest Test century by an India player and fourth overall, in terms of balls faced. Resuming batting on day three on the fall of Javagal Srinath’s wicket after retiring hurt the previous evening, Azharuddin reached 50 in 35 balls, then the second fastest for India and scored 91 runs in the first session of play. He struck a 161-run partnership with an Anil Kumble for the eighth wicket, another India national record, “hooking and pulling” while dealing with his “weakness against the short-pitched delivery”. He particularly attacked Lance Klusener scoring 20 runs off his 14th over. It was his fourth century at this venue and 15th overall. However, India was handed one of its biggest defeats despite another attacking innings by Azharuddin in the fourth innings. Azharuddin followed this up with a second-innings century in the next Test, also the last, of the series. He made an unbeaten 163 and helped his team record their hitherto biggest win in Test history in terms of runs (280). He was named the man of the match, and the series. He aggregated 388 runs for the series at 77.60.
Azharuddin became the captain of the Indian team succeeding Krishnamachari Srikkanth in 1989. He led the Indian team in 47 Test matches and 174 One Day Internationals. He led the team to victory in 90 ODIs, the highest until surpassed by M.S. Dhoni on 2 September 2014. His 14 test match wins as captain was a record until it was beaten by Sourav Ganguly, who has 21 test match wins to his name.
Azharuddin was accused of alleged match-fixing in the match-fixing scandal in 2000. The CBI report states that Azhar was the one to introduce then South African Captain, Hansie Cronje to the bookies. The ICC and the BCCI banned Azharuddin for life based on a report by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
On 8 November 2012, a Divisional Bench consisting of Justice Ashutosh Mohunta and Krishna Mohan Reddy of the Andhra Pradesh High Court revoked the ban imposed based on the evidence found.
Azharuddin was a middle-order batsman of India. He was known for a graceful and fluid batting style. John Woodcock, a cricket writer, said of him, “It’s no use asking an Englishman to bat like Mohammad Azharuddin. It would be like expecting a greyhound to win The Derby.” Retired cricketer Venkataraghavan stated that “Azharuddin had the best wrists in the game”.Mike Atherton and Angus Fraser said Azharuddin’s “genius was second only to Brian Lara among batsmen of their generation.”
Novelist and cricket historian Arunabha Sengupta said of Azharuddin:
Mohammad Azharuddin, was one of the most delightful batsmen to watch and a superb fielder to boot, whose career ended under a cloud of allegations. Azhar was simply magical. Be it batting or fielding, his willow was a wand, his strokes cast a spell and his motion in the field was hypnotic.
Azharuddin was awarded the Arjuna Award in 1986 and the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian award, in recognition of his distinguished contribution in the field of sports, in 1988. He was named one of five Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year for the year 1991.
Azharuddin married Naureen in 1987 and had two sons with her. In 1996, he divorced her and married actress Sangeeta Bijlani. The marriage reportedly ended in a divorce in 2010 due to Azhar’s affair with badminton player Jwala Gutta. However the former captain claims he is still married to Sangeeta, clearing rumors of his 3rd marriage.
He had 2 sons Asaduddin and Ayazuddin. His younger son Ayazuddin died in a road accident in 2011. Ayazuddin’s sportsbike Suzuki GSX-R1000, was an Eid gift from his father on which the tragic accident occurred. A large number of VIP’s, including Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy and other politicians arrived at the hospital to console Azhar and his family members.
His elder son – Asaduddin Abbas is an aspiring cricketer and has been selected in the Goa State team in September 2018.Azhar’s son was selected for ODI team as well
In Popular Culture
A Bollywood film Azhar, directed by Tony D’Souza, was based on his life. The film featured Emraan Hashmi as Mohammad Azharuddin, Nargis Fakhri as Sangeeta Bijlani and Prachi Desai as first wife Naureen. It was released on 13 May 2016.