'I don't talk to media much as they ask about my lifetime ban'

Mohammad Azharuddin
Mohammad AzharuddinFile photo

Mohammad Azharuddin was known for his sensational wrists and magical batting style which was entirely original. A match-fixing scandal in 2000 brought an end to his playing career. The lifetime ban, however, was declared illegal by the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 2012.

The former Indian captain recently has talked to Prothom Alo about cricket in Bangladesh and India. He did not wish to open up about the ban, though.

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You have been the most successful captain in the Indian team, yet you could not perform well in several matches in England, West Indies, Australia and South Africa. Do you have any regrets?

I've tried my best to do well in every match. The outcome hasn't always been satisfactory. We might lose a number of matches abroad but we won several other home matches. That wouldn’t happen if the team was weak.

Do you believe, as many do, that Sourav Ganguly was the game changer for Indian team?

His performance and track records say so. He was a tremendous cricketer. He was a brilliant captain as well. I would rather call him one of the best captains of the Indian team so far.

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He came into limelight during your captaincy. How was your experience with Sourav as a rising star?

Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were the two stars that the Indian team discovered in 1996. Sourav played an outstanding innings during the England tour. We selected him as opening batsman and he displayed his charisma brilliantly.

Sourav is now the president of BCCI. What’s your take on his new role?

Honestly saying, Sourav has taken some really good initiatives. He could not give his best due to the lockdown for coronavirus. Hopefully, we will see him in full swing after the pandemic ends.

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Can you remember your first Bangladesh tour? What about the Independence Cup in 1998?

It was at the end of 1988 during Asia Cup. I played my first match as Indian captain in Dhaka. In 1990, before the New Zealand tour, we played two matches against Pakistan in Dhaka.

I can clearly remember the 1998 Independence Cup, too. The final match was breathtaking. It was very cold and there was something wrong with the floodlights. Sourav made a century. India won. It was so exciting!

You were banned for life due to match fixing allegations in 2000…..

(Intervening before the question ends) I agreed to talk to you because you wanted to discuss cricket. I do not wish to speak about my past. I have moved on. I do not talk to media much as they ask about this incident.

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Well, what do you think about Bangladeshi cricket?

I do not know much about Bangladesh cricket. The team is doing well. They are doing very well in limited-over cricket. I watched their performance on television. They are very young and talented. They need time as well as inspiration.

How would you evaluate Shakib Al Hassan?

Shakib is an excellent player, an integral part of the Bangladesh team. He has so many records. I was stunned by his performance in the last World Cup.

Do you believe Virat Kohli is the best captain ever in the Indian team?

It’s a pretty difficult question. Being best depends on the certain period, context and other aspects. Every player has to go through those aspects. You can never compare one specific period and context to the others.

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Is it possible to compare Virat Kohli with Sachin Tendulkar?

They both are the assets of Indian cricket. Both of them are tremendously brilliant. Yet they are uniquely talented. Not only Virat or Sachin, every cricketer is born with different skills.

How are Mahindra Singh Dhoni and Virat Kohli different from each other as captains?

Dhoni had been captain of the Indian team that took two Wolrd Cup trophies and one Champion’s Trophy. He took India to top in Test ranking. Virat on the other hand is a superb captain. But if we compare him with Dhoni this early, it would be an injustice to Dhoni. After all, Virat has just begun.

You made a buzz in the cricket world by scoring three centuries in a row in your opening match in 1984. Tell us about that story...

It's not a story but sheer hard work. I worked very hard before the opening match. Scoring a century in test match is a big achievement. It was like dream came true. I always believed in hard work. You may have God-gifted talent, but you must work hard. Sourav scored two centuries in 1996 during his opening in England. I wish he could have broken my record.

*This interview, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat