`Everything happened so quickly'

S. PATRONOBISH

"The hundreds in my first three Tests should, without doubt, be the best moments of my career. That was a truly fabulous start. Such things you just can't even dream of."

Definitely there are many great moments like the series of Test wins achieved by India under my captaincy (Mohammad Azharuddin was the most successful Indian captain then), but by all means, the hundreds I scored in my first three Tests should be the best moments of my career. That was a truly fabulous start. Such things you just can’t even dream of. They happen once in a life time, and I am really lucky to have had such a start to my cricket career.

Everything happened so quickly, and it took really some time for me to look back at those three consecutive centuries and feel immensely satisfied. Definitely, they catapulted me to immediate stardom in Test cricket.

Well, I repeat, it took me five to six years to make it to the Indian team, but just three matches to become some sort of a star in the star-studded Indian line-up. And this made me feel really great — I am saying this not with arrogance but all humility — that I belonged to a different grade of cricketers.

Most importantly, those three successive centuries gave me immense satisfaction that I was able to justify the faith reposed in me by the National selectors. And — I must say this — Shiv Bhai (Shivlal Yadav, who is now the vice-president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India), who was my roommate then, was a pillar of strength to me. He was always encouraging me.

Those were clearly the most unforgettable and ecstatic moments of my career. The huge public reception I got on my arrival home, the parade through the streets in an open top jeep, were all typical of the Hyderabadi warmth. And I repeat, one cannot think of such things even in his wildest dreams. But the way the people of Hyderabad responded to my performance is still fresh in my memory.

However, the fact that I could not share that moment of triumph — my grand entry into Test cricket — with my maternal grandfather (Vajehuddin passed away a few days before Azharuddin’s Test debut) still haunts me, for he was everything to me, guiding me day in and day out in studies and in sport. But for his great support, I would not have achieved anything.

Definitely, one of the saddest moments of my life was when he was not there with me during my moment of triumph. During my school days, my grandfather would spend most of the time watching me play. He was always confident about me. He even predicted that I would play for India one day.

On the cricket field, I believe, my worst moment was when India lost to Sri Lanka in the 1996 World Cup semifinal at Eden Gardens. I just could not believe it when it actually happened. We were so close to winning the World Cup.

We were playing exceptional cricket till then. We reached Kolkata for the semifinal after crossing a major hurdle with a magnificent win over Pakistan in Bangalore. The mood in our camp was upbeat and we had the capability to defeat any team. That semifinal defeat, in front of the huge home crowd, is the most forgettable episode of my career.

The start was exceptional though, considering that Javagal Srinath had sent back the dangerous opening pair of Sanath Jayasuriya (1) and Kaluwitharana (0) very early as Sri Lanka batted first. But when we began the chase, we faltered. I still can’t believe that we lost that game after being 98 for one at one stage, chasing 252 runs for victory.

Personally, too, I was terribly disappointed. (Azharuddin was out for a duck.) The defeat hurts even now, for I believe that team was one of the best one-day squads from India to have never won the World Cup. But that is cricket, a glorious game of uncertainties. You have your own moments of highs and lows!

As told to V. V. Subrahmanyam * * *

In a new role... Congress MP Mohammad Azharuddin arrives for the oath-taking ceremony of the 15th Lok Sabha at the Parliament House in New Delhi in June 2009.-RAJEEV BHATT

Enjoying his stint in politics

It’s a little over 25 years since Mohammad Azharuddin stormed the cricketing world by becoming the only batsman to score centuries in his first three Tests, in the 1984-85 series against England.

Azharuddin, 46, has now taken up a career in politics. “I am enjoying my stint as the Member of Parliament from the Moradabad constituency,” he says.

It’s an irony that Azharuddin, who had a sensational start to his Test cricket, had to make a forgettable exit in the wake of the match-fixing scandal in 2000. For someone whose reputation as one of the greatest cricketers from India took a severe beating due to the alleged match-fixing charges, Azharuddin has maintained a remarkable silence and has always stayed clear of further controversies.

Quite interestingly, Azharuddin, recently, was back for a veterans cricket function at the Gymkhana Grounds in Secunderabad — the venue where the late Raj Singh Dungarpur, former BCCI President, offered the unassuming cricketer the Indian captaincy in the summer of 1990. Dungarpur’s now famous lines were: “Kya miyan, captain banoge? (What man, will you become the captain?). And the rest is history.

Azharuddin is one of India’s most successful captains.

In 99 Tests, he scored 6215 runs (average: 45.03) with 22 centuries (highest: 199) and 21 half-centuries. And in 334 ODIs, he scored 9378 (average: 36.92) with seven centuries (highest: 153 not out) and 58 half-centuries.