1984 was a year to neglect for India – Operation Blue Star, the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the Bhopal fuel tragedy. Cricket had its personal share. Kapil Dev was dropped from the workforce on disciplinary grounds and it was alleged that Sunil Gavaskar had a position. However in late 1984, India discovered hope on the cricket discipline: Mohammad Azharuddin.
India was to play England on the final day of the year at Eden Gardens. Azhar’s followers had been speaking even earlier than he stepped on the sphere. Many stated that he was an artist. I had seen David Gower and Zaheer Abbas and was curious to understand how an Indian batsman could possibly be completely different. What adopted was what would go down in historical past as probably the most memorable innings, particularly for Indian followers. Then once more, for me Azhar would go on to turn into the Salvador Dali of cricket – the Spanish Surrealist artist.
On the Eden Gardens, the collection was on the road, with each groups having gained one Check every. He began his cricket journey for Azharuddin with a century. And the person from Hyderabad didn’t cease right here. He added two extra runs to turn into the primary batsman in historical past to attain three consecutive tons within the first three Checks.
It’s stated that Salvador Dali intentionally used irrational ideas to give you nice artworks. Azhar additionally did one thing comparable.
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One such masterpiece from Azhar’s bat got here in January 1997 in Cape City. Allan Donald was at his peak, bowling brilliantly exterior off stump. ‘White Lightning’, as he was referred to as, was one of many quickest of his period. He was correct and would hit over 90 mph. However Azhar was in a fully completely different model.
A shot that’s nonetheless deeply ingrained in my thoughts 25 years after it was performed. A fiery swinger from Donald is flicked down the leg aspect for a 4. The cherry was clearly going away from Azhar on off however the wristy right-handed batsman managed to flick it down the leg aspect. Azhar’s innings was a masterclass in unorthodox batting. The balls had been pitching superbly exterior the off-stump and the Indian batsmen had been ‘irrationally’ taking them down the leg. He scored 115 runs in 110 balls. Of those, 82 runs got here within the type of fours and sixes. That is in opposition to an onslaught of Donald, Pollock, Klusener and McMillan.
Azhar performed many such wonderful innings. A match in opposition to Pakistan at Eden Gardens in 1987 will certainly be remembered. In that Check, he scored a powerful 141 with ease in opposition to the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir. In Auckland in 1990, he narrowly missed out on a double ton, however earlier than that he had punished Richard Hadlee and Danny Morrison for greater than 4 runs an over. His dominance was not restricted to the longer format.
In an ODI in opposition to Pakistan in Sharjah in 1996, Azhar scored 24 runs within the final over to take the workforce previous 300 – a first for India in ODIs. In a essential match on the Benson & Hedges World Championship in 1985, Azhar ensured a well-known victory in opposition to the archers by scoring an unbeaten 93 in fast time, going through Imran Khan and Wasim Akram. In probably the most well-known ODI matches within the four-nation Rothmans Cup in 1985 between India and Pakistan, Azhar scored 47 in a low-scoring match. India had been bundled out for 125, however bowled Pakistan out for 87 to report a well-known victory. Within the 1992 World Cup in Australia, Azhar led from the entrance. He scored 93 runs in opposition to Australia. After this he scored 61 runs in opposition to the West Indies. This was adopted by a half-century in opposition to the Kiwis and a good 79 in opposition to South Africa.
In a essential match of the Independence Cup 1998, Azhar led India to victory by scoring a hundred off nearly one ball in opposition to Pakistan. In the identical year, in Toronto, he once more scored a run-a-ball century in opposition to Pakistan. Within the 1999 ICC World Cup, at Outdated Trafford, Azhar scored a match-winning half-century in opposition to Pakistan. Within the 2000 Coca-Cola Cup in Sharjah, Azhar top-scored in opposition to Pakistan to steer India to victory. Pakistanis typically bought particular remedy from the Nayaks of Hyderabad.
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Particular love for Eden Gardens
The final tribute to Azhar was paid by England quick bowler Angus Fraser in 1990. It was in a Check match at Lord’s the place Graham Gooch scored the well-known 333. Metropolis. Within the context of the match, Gooch’s runs had been big however they had been laborious in nature. Azhar’s century remained one thing like this. Azhar scored 121 off 111 balls in reply to England’s mammoth 653/4 declared. Fraser described it as probably the greatest innings he has ever performed at Lord’s. Fraser admitted that it was not possible to bowl to Azharuddin. He summed up Azhar’s batting merely: ‘A number of inches exterior the off stump can go wherever on the off aspect for a 4 and something exterior the leg stump can go wherever on the leg aspect for a 4’. In different phrases, there was no room for error whereas bowling to Mohammad Azharuddin.
Azhar additionally confirmed class whereas chasing a powerful goal. In a Check match at Adelaide in 1992, Azhar led probably the greatest chasers within the fourth innings. He scored a fast century, going through the likes of McDermott, Warne, Whitney and Merv Hughes. India fell behind by 38 runs however Ian Chappell was filled with reward for the Indian.
Azhar had a particular attachment to Eden Gardens. Right here he scored 860 runs in 9 Check innings, together with 5 centuries. A kind of 9 Check innings got here within the type of a loss in opposition to South Africa in 1996. India was tottering when Azhar got here to bat. To make issues worse, he injured himself and needed to retire to the dressing room, solely to return and rating 109 off 77 balls in opposition to the perfect bowling assault of his time. He scored most of his runs from the tail. Rearguard motion in Check cricket requires nice care, persistence and willpower. However not with Azhar. His counter assault used to provide sleepless nights to the bowlers. In that match, Azhar was harsh on Lance Klusener who returned bowling figures of 14(O)-1(M)-75(R)-0(W).
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Azhar typically got here underneath assault when it got here to captaincy. However if you happen to ask me, his contribution is underrated. He captained India in three World Cups – 1992, 1996 and 1999 and led the workforce to victories in opposition to Pakistan in all of the three matches. India was defending a low complete in 1992 and 1999. Azhar captained brilliantly and arrange the attacking zone. In a 1999 World Cup match in opposition to Pakistan at Outdated Trafford, he had three slips and nearly all fielders contained in the 30-yard circle through the 50 overs of the Pakistani batting. Within the 1996 World Cup, in Bangalore, Azhar didn’t panic when Pakistan openers Anwar and Sohail bought him off to a blistering begin and had been operating away from the match. India slowly clawed their manner again into the sport to seal a well-known victory.
However his fielding is one space which is appreciated by followers and critics alike. Even on the age of 37, when he retired, Azhar was not one of many lazy toes within the dressing room. It might not be improper to name him probably the greatest fielders of India in that period. He was the perfect as a result of he was equally good each close to and much from the wicket.
Mohammad Azharuddin was a visible delight on the cricket discipline. Was he higher than different trendy batsmen who performed the sport earlier than and after him? Effectively, it isn’t good to check batsmen. However the well-known English cricket author John Woodcock as soon as stated: “It is no use asking an Englishman to bat like Mohammad Azharuddin. For, it would be like expecting a greyhound to win the London Derby!”
The bat in Azhar’s arms regarded like a brush by Salvador Dali. If Dali had taken up cricket, he would absolutely have batted like Mohammad Azharuddin.
Kush Singh is the founding father of @singhkb The Cricket Curry Tour Firm. Ideas are private.
(Enhancing by Anurag Choubey)