The Finishing Touch 
Greatest tragedy of Azharuddin
By S. Zeyaur Rehman

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 went wrong.

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 unsuspecting public. 

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….

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