Mohammad Azharuddin is now a senior Congress leader and a star campaigner for the party. Makes sense, you know. The Congress has become a party of losers, and nobody epitomises continuous failure better than Azharuddin – who captained the Indian Cricket Team for three terms. Under his leadership, Indian cricket suffered. It remained in a perpetual state of agony. People stopped watching cricket; they grew a distaste for it. Cricket no longer fascinated Indians. Azharuddin did all he could to bring the team down – keeping his selfish goals and ambitions over and above any national and patriotic considerations.
Azharuddin’s Pathetic Captaincy
Azharuddin led India unsuccessfully in three consecutive world cups in 1992, 1996 and 1999, even while his stint was marred by reports of rampant factionalism, continuous clashes, and poor organisation in the dressing-room culture. Playing 99 tests and 334 One-Day-Internationals overall, the cricketer had led India multiple times as a skipper. Azharuddin is a disgraced cricketer. He was found guilty of fixing matches and then banned for life in 2000.
Azharuddin took bribes and deliberately performed badly in crucial matches. As a captain, Azharuddin’s only victory abroad was a win against Sri Lanka in 1993. Interestingly, Sri Lanka in 1993 was akin to Namibia of 2022, a team that no one took seriously. Azharuddin’s lowest moment as a captain came when he led the team to the ground during the World Cup semi-final against the Sri Lankans at Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
Mohammad Azharuddin has a terrible overseas record. It is almost as if he played to make India lose and led the team with the same spirit. Players would not talk to each other, Azharuddin would not prepare tournament-centric strategies, leave alone those for singular matches. Navjot Singh Sidhu called it quits from cricket under Azharuddin’s rule, saying his captain laughs at him.
Kapil Dev, meanwhile, said there are too many “yes-men” in the team instead of “characters”. But don’t we all know why Azharuddin brought the Indian team down and reduced it into a disgraced entity? He took bribes to do so.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which conducted the investigation into the match-fixing scandal, stated in a report that “The evidence against Azharuddin clearly establishes the fact that he took money from bookies/punters to fix cricket matches and also the fact that the ‘underworld’ had approached him to fix matches for them.” Even the Andhra Pradesh High Court did not absolve him of his crimes while lifting life ban on Azhar. Azharuddin was undoubtedly the “kingpin” of match-fixing in India, with “a criminal bent of mind”, and was considered a “Bhai” by dons like Anees Ibrahim, Chhota Shakeel, and Sharad Shetty.
How Azharuddin Brought Others Down
Azharuddin never had the best interests of the Indian team at heart, which is why he deliberately performed badly in certain matches – especially those that were captained by Sachin Tendulkar. Sachin’s clear instructions were openly defied by Mohammad Azharuddin during the St Vincent ODI match against West Indies. Chasing 250, India was once placed comfortably at 201 for 3 but managed to get bowled out for 231.
Azharuddin, along with other batsmen openly defied Sachin’s directive of not playing risky shots and winning the match without much of a blitzkrieg. Yet, that is what happened. A match which India had won, was lost due to Azharuddin’s larger-than-life ego and unwillingness to follow instructions like a team player.
During the Independence Cup, which was organised as a part of India’s 50 years of independence, Azharuddin made it clear he was not committed to the team. India failed to make it to the finals after losing to eventual champions Sri Lanka and arch-rival Pakistan.
Azharuddin was always a captain when India won, and he would go into hiding after every match the team lost. He was a master at hogging the limelight. When it came to leading the team through losses, however, he simply remained absent and would get annoyed if anyone pointed fingers at him.
A tainted man like Azharuddin should have never led the Indian cricket team. India must say ‘Never Again’ to men like him, who keep their own identity over and above their duty to the nation. And this includes saying no to the man in politics as well.