During his days as India captain, Mohammed Azharuddin, a man of few words, would restrict his assessment of any game to “we need to bat well, bowl well and field well”.
Things have not quite changed much, now that he is preparing to get into the role of an cricket administrator. “My focus will be cricket, cricket and only cricket is my agenda” was his pithy one-liner to The Times of India, soon after he filed his nomination to fight the election to become the President of the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA). The election is to be held on 27 September.
Two and a half years after he was not allowed to contest the HCA elections on technical grounds, Azhar is back and this time, looks set to flick his way to the president’s post. Having been a politician and served as a Congress MP, Azhar knows the importance of the right kind of backing. This time, he has ensured he has the support of Shivlal Yadav and Arshad Ayub. On the difficult and unpredictable HCA pitch, nothing better than having two experienced ex-India spinners turning up for you. The rival camp in Hyderabad cricket has not yet announced its candidate for the president’s post.
It also helps that the HCA election will be supervised by VS Sampath, former Chief Election Commissioner and a man of impeccable reputation. Subject to a detailed scrutiny, he has cleared Azhar’s candidature for now on the basis of him being a former international player and his name figuring on the electoral rolls.
But why does Hyderabad cricket need Azhar and what would he bring to the 22 yards?
For years, the city’s cricket management has been dominated by the same faces with not much to show in terms of cricketing laurels. Hyderabad’s golden days in cricket are behind it and since VVS Laxman and Pragyan Ojha, the city has not seen a city boy making it into the India side on a consistent basis. That is, if you ignore Ambati Rayudu.
Azhar needs to focus on building the gen-next of Hyderabad cricket on priority basis, re-energise cricket in the districts, help unearth talent. Azhar has the gravitas to be the Imran Khan of Hyderabad and Telangana cricket but for that he will have to travel, watch games and interact with the boys. He will need to play with the boys and boost the morale of the coaching staff.
Like most cricket associations in India, there is more politics than sport in Hyderabad cricket and that has been its bane. Azhar after the match-fixing controversy at the turn of the century, largely stayed away from cricketing matters. But that episode should not be a shadow of any sort on his candidature.
Azhar is a product of Hyderabad cricket and its system with all its faults. No one better than him to understand the nuts and bolts of the cricketing structure in the city. He deserves a chance to play a second innings for Hyderabad cricket, once again as its `captain’.