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Mohammed Azharuddin: fall of an idol

Published: Wednesday, December 6, 2000, 18:00 [IST]
 
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New Delhi: Mohammed Azharuddin, who swore by fate throughout his life, in the end had only his own greed to blame for destroying his career and reputation as one of India's greatest cricketers.The former Test captain was handed a life ban Tuesday by the Indian cricket authorities, after he admitted to fixing three One-day international matches.The wristy batsman was referred to as God's gift to Indian cricket when he burst onto the world stage in 1984 with centuries in his first three Tests against David Gower's Englishmen.He was, however, destined for even bigger deeds and became India's longest-serving and most successful captain with 14 Test wins to his credit.Azharuddin will now go into the record books as the only cricketer in the world to be stranded on 99 Test appearances. He has also played more One-dayers (323) than any other player in the world.Each stage of his career was marked by strange twists and turns, which Azhar attributed to destiny and God's will.His adoring grandfather, Mohammad Vajehuddin, whose only desire was to see Azhar play for India, died a few days before he made his Test debut in November 1984.The captaincy was thrust on him in 1990 when the Indian Board, faced with a players' revolt over match fees, wanted a non-controversial man at the helm. Azharuddin was not even captain of his home state of Hyderabad when chairman of selectors Raj Singh Dungarpur offered him the job. Two disastrous tours of Australia and South Africa in 1991 and 1992 not only threatened his captaincy but his place in the team as well. Coach Ajit Wadekar, however, stepped in and persuaded the selectors to give Azharuddin a last chance for the home series against Graham Gooch's English side in 1993.Azharuddin responded with a superb 182 in the first Test at Calcutta, after being dropped in the slips before he had scored, and led India to a 3-0 rout of the tourists.He was the undisputed king of Indian cricket till 1996, when the World Cup semi-final loss to eventual champions Sri Lanka saw Azharuddin sacked and replaced by Sachin Tendulkar. Azharuddin's career as a player appeared to be finished in December 1997 when critics, including Sunil Gavaskar, called for his head after a lean streak at a Sharjah tournament. Instead, the selectors sacked Tendulkar and made Azharuddin captain again for the Independence Cup in Bangladesh in January 1998, which India won with a last-over win over arch-rivals Pakistan. He was sacked again after last year's World Cup in England and omitted from the side that toured Australia, at the behest of captain Tendulkar and coach Kapil Dev. "Alvida (Farewell) Azhar" ran the front page headline in the Times of Indian Tuesday, following the life ban imposed by the national cricket board.Copyright AFP 2000

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