Home > Features > Serials >

Brothers-in-arms 3: Azharuddin & Malik – linked by flair, figures, faults & fickle fame

Brothers-in-arms 3: Azharuddin & Malik - linked by flair, figures, faults & fickle fame

Mohammad Azharuddin (L) and Saleem Malik entered the international arena painting dreams with willows that their wristy wizardry transformed into temperamental brushes of impressionist masters. Yet, sadly, both left the game under cloaks of calumny which veiled the splendour that glistened from their ethereal stroke-play © Getty Images & AFP

This is Part 3 of a series in which two different cricketers are paired who could easily be mistaken for siblings in the way they went about their game. Read on for more on the soul-siblings of the gentleman’s game! In this episode, Arunabha Sengupta writes about the two men related by fortune and finesse are Mohammad Azharuddin and Saleem Malik.

They entered the international arena painting dreams with willows that their wristy wizardry transformed into temperamental brushes of impressionist masters. Yet, sadly, both left the game under cloaks of calumny which veiled the splendour that glistened from their ethereal stroke-play.

Born within a couple of months of each other in 1963, their cricketing lives were switched off by questionable snaps of self-righteous fingers that kept pointing accusingly in the late 90s.

Both struck centuries in the first Tests they played, and promised to become the greatest batsmen of their respective lands. Yet they never quite climbed high enough to usurp the beacons of the leading lights, as the aura of both flickered as frequently as they sparkled. Both lorded it over in their backyards, set fire to the Garden of Eden, brought fresh sublime sights and sounds to the stale canned cricketing air of the Old Country, but tiny chinks and crevices in their shining armours became enormous chasms when the action shifted to more dangerous terrain, where the balls darted through chin high, reaching the neighbourhood of the bat at lightning rates.

Mohammad Azharuddin’s emergence was as meteoric as magical, and yet he remained a splendid decoration in the late order whose durability and rigorous use seemed to come second to the august names of Sunil Gavaskar and Dilip Vengsarkar, and later in his career behind a phenomenon called Sachin Tendulkar. Similarly, Saleem Malik was whooshed in, carried by a truckload of promise, but never managed to upstage the might of Zaheer Abbas and Javed Miandad, and afterwards found the area under the spotlight hogged by the giant frame of Inzamam ul Haq.

Yet, many mesmerising memories flit by when we remember the mystic moments conjured by the two men, the intricate finesse and flair forever attached to the oriental craft of batsmanship since the days of Ranjitsinhji.

Azharuddin pierced the field like the golden hilted clippers of the regal couturier making their way through chiffon – before perhaps his own fondness for Armani stripped his baser self to reveal the avaricious Achilles heel.  And Malik’s delicate stroke-making was once described by David Gower as batting with velvet gloves, till off came those luxurious hand-garments and the world believed they saw grubby, money stained palms.

At the wicket both could pick gaps and vacancies where less gifted men saw a veritable army of sentinels. Azharuddin could caress the same ball through a crowded cover field or between two gobsmacked men almost hugging each other at mid-wicket, while Malik could nonchalantly strike sixes over point. While the former cruised through a lifelong honeymoon at the Eden, the latter chose the venue for a whirlwind affair – hitting 72 off 36 balls out of a total of 80 that hurtled forth while he ruled the crease in 1987, leaving Kapil Dev to wonder about ephemeral existence.

Both chose England  and the Englishmen as the country and opponents to inflict some of the unkindest, if glorious, cuts of them all; and both fell from grace and adulation, if rumours and allegations are to be believed, while enticing ‘honourable’ men from two cricketing superpowers of the southern hemisphere.

While both led their nations with quite a lot of success, and much of it from the front, those days have been smoothly and surely erased from the infinitesimal memories of their respective countrymen. The last days for both were like looking at the movements of phenomenal performing artists through a glass door covered by dirty linen, mud and smoke screen, which not only hid the aesthetics of their art, but also clouded circumstantial perspective and made the reflections of the accusers too blurry for comparative self-assessment.

Even as the heady wine of their batsmanship could not be enjoyed in the vintage vein, they ended with remarkably similar numbers – 99 Tests to 103, just over 6000 runs and under, averages within one and a half of each other in the mid 40s.

Maestros linked by flair, figures, faults and fickle fame.

(Arunabha Sengupta is a cricket historian and Chief Cricket Writer at CricketCountry. He writes about the history and the romance of the game, punctuated often by opinions about modern day cricket, while his post-graduate degree in statistics peeps through in occasional analytical pieces. The author of three novels, he can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/senantix)

Click here to read part 1

Click here to read part 2

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 24, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Glenelg, Adelaide

Pakistan vs New Zealand in UAE, 2014

Nov 26, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Sharjah

India tour of Australia 2014, Practice matches

Nov 28, 2014 (05:29 IST)   at Adelaide

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 28, 2014 (12:00 IST)   at Dhaka

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 29, 2014 (10:00 IST)   at Colombo

More

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Dhaka

Bangladesh won by 124 runs

England tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 26, 2014  at Colombo

Sri Lanka won by 25 runs

Hong Kong tour of Sri Lanka, 2014

Nov 24, 2014  at Colombo

Hong Kong won by 2 wkts

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Chittagong

Bangladesh won by 68 runs

South Africa tour of Australia, 2014

Nov 23, 2014  at Sydney

Australia won by 2 wickets (D/L method)

Photos

Phil Hughes suffers head injury: In photos

Videos

AB de Villiers: Disappointed with defeat in Australia

Daniel Vettori becomes the most capped New Zealand player

Quinton de Kock equals record for most centuries before the age of 22

Wriddhiman Saha’s performance in the 1st Test at Brisbane could make or break his career

England tour of Sri Lanka 2014: Stats overview of past encounters

Pakistan vs New Zealand 2014: New Zealand’s inspired performance in 2nd Test serves important lesson to non-Asian countries

Australia Australia vs South Africa Australia vs South Africa 2014 Bangladesh Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe Bangladesh vs Zimbabwe 2014 England India India tour of Australia 2014-15 South Africa Sri Lanka Zimbabwe Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh 2014 Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh Zimbabwe vs Bangladesh 2014

England tour of Sri Lanka 2014: England lack killer instinct, feels Alastair Cook

Jacques Kallis to make his debut as caddy

Moeen Ali, Ravi Bopara’s efforts go in vain as Sri Lanka trump England by 25 runs in 1st ODI

West Indies tour of South Africa 2014-15: Sheldon Cottrell ready for return

Phil Hughes’ injury asks for review of safety factor in cricket equipment, feels Jagmohan Dalmiya

Ishant Sharma — Is his current ODI form good enough to earn him a place in ICC World Cup 2015 squad?

The birth of Day Night cricket matches

Phillip Hughes head injury: Are helmets making batsmen complacent?

Daniel Vettori becomes the most capped New Zealand player

Quinton de Kock equals record for most centuries before the age of 22

Fan of the Day

Niharika Shah

Niharika Shah

682 Posts | 6 Fans

Video: Phil Hughes suffers head injury, collapses on field during New South Wales vs South Australia tie

Bigg Boss: Hot Pakistani model Veena Malik and husband arrested on blasphemy charges

மணப்பெண் அழகு சரிபார்ப்பு பட்டியல் – உங்கள் திருமணத்திற்கு ஒரு மாதத்திற்கு முன் என்ன செய்ய வேண்டும்

Bigg Boss 8: Is Gautam Gulati out of the house?

More broadband connections to boost GDP growth in Asia Pacific: GSMA

Scoop: Is Sid Mallya really gay? Watch video to find out!

Microsoft Lumia 535: First non-Nokia low budget Windows smartphone set to be launched today

रितेश-जेनेलिया देशमुख के घर पुत्ररत्न का हुआ जन्म

India is becoming our largest overseas market, Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun says

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here