By Sidhanta Patnaik
It was a mistake that could have been avoided. If the clock can be turned back, then the script could get rewritten. But that is not to be. To err is human and Mohammed Azharuddin, like many other souls blinded by power and fame, got caught in a moment where his judgement failed him. Though the allegations of his role in the match-fixing scandal of 2000 are yet to be proven in the court of law, the verdict has been closed in the community. Unlike the numerous anonymous corrupt politicians who continue to make their hay in the open bazaar, Azharuddin’s name - even after a decade - gives rise to a temperamental rage in public domain. After all his connection with Indians runs deep; the scars of that dark phase continue to hound the memory. It still unravels the mind that in a matter of few days he went on from being India’s mass hero to that of someone who is usually asked to leave the hamlet.
Between the Sunil Gavaskar era and Sachin Tendulkar phenomena, Azharuddin took it upon himself to build the bridge - a true reflection of conservative India’s transition into a consumerist society. This made him liberalised India’s first true mass leader. At a time when being rich came with a share of guilt, Azhar’s introvert, humble and dignified nature directly linked him to the heart of every person in the street as in him they saw them. That way he balanced the two sides of the young economy in only a way that he could, elegant and carefree.
The gift of grit, grace and strategic mind packaged him as a confident man in charge of a rising organisation. It made for good ego massage at a time when cricket in India, as a product, was at the growth stage of its lifecycle. Then his stout religious beliefs personified the background of an entire land where everyday has some connotation with at least one from the pantheon of Gods. This thinking united a Kashmiri with a Delhite, with an Oriya, with a Telugite, with a Kannadiga, with a Gujarati... The country’s trust became his asset. And to explain his on-field brilliance one need not go far; I can steal the words from one of my friend’s dictionary, “In the end, it wasn't the same game that the other 21 players were playing while Azza was on song. It was like MF Husain; just walked into an art school, put on some rock-and-roll music and decided to have a good time and paint ."
Unfortunately, the magic that came out of those astonishing wrists met with a shattering end and the repercussions are still being felt. But most people who know the true meaning of Azharuddin in their life can never curse him for what he did to them. Instead they live in the agony of ‘what could have happened if...?’
Recently when his younger son expired, literally all of Hyderabad mourned along with him. That gives a realistic measurement of his current goodwill. At a time when Vinod Kambli has alleged that the 1996 World Cup semi-final match between India and Sri Lanka was probably rigged, it is difficult to not question the timing and motive behind this sudden burst. More importantly, should not Azharuddin the person be given a second chance to re-establish his credentials in the society? After all far bigger crimes have been excused for in the history books.
(Sidhanta Patnaik is a sports marketing professional, a public speaker and a part time writer. His twitter id is @sidhpat)