Cricket’s fallen star Azharuddin looms on Congress horizon

February 19th, 2009 - 8:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Feb 19 (IANS) Mohammed Azharuddin stormed the cricketing world in December 1984, scoring three centuries on debut against England to create a world record. On Thursday, 25 years later, the controversial sportsman made another dramatic entry - this time on the political stage - when he joined the Congress with cameras whirring and flashbulbs popping.

For years, Azharuddin had lived the life of a recluse. It was in 1999 when one of India’s most successful captains was caught plumb in the middle of a match-fixing scandal that came close to destroying world cricket and which consequently brought his glittering career to a sudden and sad halt.

On Thursday, when he ambled nervously into the Congress headquarters, flanked by scores of ingratiating party workers to announce his entry into politics, the stylish batsman from Hyderabad, summed it up by saying it was all “taqdeer” (fate).

“Tribulations are Allah’s way of testing our faith. I am back in the public arena,” the 45-year-old Azharuddin, or Azhar as he is known, told IANS, promising to work equally hard as he had on the field in his new avatar.

“I have been called the child of destiny and destiny has played its hand again. I have a lot of respect for the Congress party as it has contributed significantly in the freedom struggle.”

“The party has also made sacrifices and I have a lot of respect for Rajiv Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi,” he added.

Constantly mopping his face to wipe off the beads of sweat in a packed media room, Azhar said he was not concerned about the allegations of match fixing as he kept a composed exterior not even once during the short interaction betray a troubled man.

“There will be criticism and I will take it my stride,” he announced.

The cricketer, who has played 334 one-day-internationals, scoring 9,378 runs and 99 Tests, aggregating 6,215 runs, said the game had given him everything.

“If I’m anything today it is because of the game…where I have given blood, sweat and tears.”

The one regret that he will always carry is not joining the 100 Test club.

“Now, I have joined the Congress and will do my best to translate my efforts in the public arena. I don’t know if I will contest the elections but this is a new chapter.”

“I am sure it (Congress) will do well. I don’t know where I will be standing from. I don’t decide that as I am not the captain anymore,” Azharuddin told IANS ahead of his initiation.

“Let me join the party and get an idea of what it feels like to join,” Azharuddin, who was removed from the team after his alleged involvement in match fixing, added.

To understand Azhar, as his biographer Harsha Bhogle puts it, “is also to breathe the air of his city, to drink the water of Gandipet. It is a charming city with a most delightfully unhurried air to it.” It rings true. Hyderabad’s politeness, simplicity and hospitality come naturally to him.

Having weathered the storm on allegations of match-fixing all these years and practically shutting himself from the public eye, Azhar now makes a re-entry.

How that will pan out will be keenly watched. But for now the Muqqaddar ka Sikandar (Prince of Destiny), as he often describes himself, begins a new innings.

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