What does a perfect biographical sketch consists of? A beginning among
modest or appalling circumstances, a constant struggle and challenge
comprises the middle and finally the travails and trials are overcome
in a happy ending. Mohammad Azharuddin was a classic example of rising
above circumstances - but only to fall.
Alternatively, in the post-modernist times, the classical plot changed
along with everything else. There were beginnings and middles, but
instead of a full stop there was a question mark at the end. Perfectness
being a utopian entity was discarded in favour of a more realistic
picture, in which something has to go wrong somewhere. This technique
forced the audience to ponder and think and see a reflection of one's
imperfectness in the image of the fallen hero. But who is going to
identify with the agony of Azharuddin, forget about people coming
to share it.
It was as if, Azhar was destined to stop short of the final step into
immortality and greatness, no matter, which route did he take. One
can trace a series of events, where Azhar began in troubled waters,
struggled to the top and just before the lap of honour, something
Cricket fans all over the world were treated with umpteen innings,
which ended without the finishing touch, without the icing on the
cake, which later on became a metaphor for his life. Numerous 40's,
which could not be converted into fifty's, half a dozen 90's, that
could not be changed into hundreds. And many an innings that ended
tamely and meekly, before they could ensure victory. A familiar pattern,
which became a way of life for Azhar.
Does one forget Azhar's 199 at Kanpur against Sri Lanka? That one
run has made a difference and a double century in Tests has eluded
Azhar ever since. His colleagues in the 199 club, Mudassar Nazar and
Steve Waugh managed double tons in later efforts, but Azhar came up
with efforts like 192, 188 etc to add to his woes.
As a captain he was never going great guns and the proverbial Damocle's
sword was always hanging on his neck. He went on to lead India in
the maximum number of Tests, but stopped three short of fifty. Similarly
he could not overtake Border and Ranatunga in the limited version,
in terms of leading in maximum one-dayers.
His 9,000 plus runs were a World Record until few days ago. Once again
the glory of being he first man to reach the five figure mark was
beckoning him. But alas that was not to be.
Such examples are never short to come by, when one writes about Azhar.
Where he missed on giving a final stamp of approval. Perhaps the most
moving all is his 99 Test matches. He will go down as the only person
to be stranded on 99 tests. One never thought that the missed Mumbai
Test against South Africa would cost him so dear. Azhar might have
the consolation of having a hundred in his first and last test innings,
but he will not be able to emulate Miandad and Greenidge.
Individual records are one thing. They establish a person in the echelons
of the sporting greats. But being a better person is always more important.
It is here that the greatest tragedy of Azharuddin lies. For he was
considered to be one of the last representatives of the gentlemanly
tradition of the game. Gentle to the extent meek and submissive. Who
knew that the flag had been trusted in wrong hand, who knew that the
gentleness was just a cloak to mask the evil deign from a loving and
One false step and the efforts of all the gigantic strides come to
a naught. People would recall with regret rather than pride, Azhar's
association with the game. Forget about a place among the greats,
he would not even be remembered as a good upright human being. What
could be more cruel for a person, who was a god to millions but has
now been reduced to the stature of a match fixer.. only a match fixer
after all…and will always remain so….