‘We need to be realistic in our approach'

S. PATRONOBISH

Mohammad Azharuddin, is of the view that the series against the West Indies would have been the right time to experiment with young talent. “I believe it would have been appropriate to let the youngsters get a feel of Test cricket and give them enough time to settle down. After all, they are the future of Indian cricket,” says the former India skipper. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

He has been a very strong believer in destiny. His philosophy in life and in sport has been to let things happen. So when he suffered a big personal tragedy recently with the death of his younger son Ayazuddin following a road accident, Mohammad Azharuddin showed great courage and conviction.

In his efforts to overcome the trauma of the tragedy, the 49-year-old former India captain makes it a point to visit the Gymkhana Grounds (Secunderabad) whenever he is free. It is here that the late Rajsingh Dungarpur made that famous statement to Azharuddin, ‘Kya miyan, captain banoge?, in 1990.

“I love this ground for many reasons, and I feel very comfortable here,” Azharuddin says as he mingles with his old friends and former team-mates such as Hyderabad off-spinner Kanwaljit Singh, Ranji player Vivek Jaisimha (son of late M. L. Jaisimha) and India left-arm spinner S. L. Venkatapathi Raju.

“I don't think we can fight destiny. Everything doesn't happen the way you want it to,” says Azharuddin. “But I must thank everyone who supported me in those moments of acute agony — the people of my constituency (Moradabad, Uttar Pradesh), my family members and the staff of Apollo Hospital who put in their best efforts in trying to save my son.

“Honestly, I tell you, the whole of the country and many from abroad made hundreds of phone calls to get an update on my son's condition. Those gestures made me bold and helped me handle the crisis better.

“It is the will of the Allah ultimately. Definitely, (it is) a huge blow for me, for Ayaz was a very enthusiastic and talented cricketer and I had big hopes on him,” Azharuddin says, struggling to overcome his emotions.

Azharuddin, who played in 99 Tests (6215 runs, 22 centuries, HS: 199, Ave: 45.03) and 334 one-day internationals (9378 runs, seven centuries, HS: 153 not out, Ave: 36.92, S/R: 74.02), and was also the most successful Indian captain in his time, says that he is slowly getting into his groove again.

How does he compare his role as a Member of Parliament to that of a former India cricketer?

“Well, both mean very high expectations from the people. As an MP, the people of my constituency look to me to solve all their problems. Honestly, not all of them are really that big, they can be taken care of,” Azharuddin says.

“Definitely, I am enjoying my new role as a politician, for it also means serving the people in a different manner. There is a unique sense of satisfaction when people come to you and share their agony and ecstasy, like the cricket fans did when I was playing for India,” he says.

When the wristy stroke-maker of yesteryear is in the mood to speak, talk on Indian cricket cannot be far off. “ Honestly, the series against the West Indies would have been the right time to experiment with the young talent. It is time we realise that we have not seen too many good Test players of late,” Azharuddin points out.

“Let us be realistic in our approach. The process of the seniors in any team making way for the younger lot is inevitable not only in cricket but in any sport,” he says. “I believe it is appropriate to let the youngsters get a feel of Test cricket and give them enough time to settle down. After all, they are the future of Indian cricket.”

Does Azharuddin believe that India can be well off by easing out the senior players?

“When you have talent there's nothing wrong in trying them out. Or else, how can one judge whether they are good enough or not for the long run?” he counters. “Remember, many become great cricketers after making their debut when young,” he adds.

On India losing the No. 1 status in Test cricket after performing poorly in England recently, Azharuddin says that rankings come and go and it doesn't mean the end of the road. “We have the potential to bounce back to the top once again,” he says.

According to Azharuddin, he will be too busy with development works in his constituency over the next few months. “Right now, I am not thinking of taking up any cricketing assignment. There's still a long way to go,” he says.