2016-09-21

Mohammad Azharuddin was the Indian cricket team’s blue-eyed boy in the 90s. He led the team in all the editions of cricket World Cup that happened in that decade. He was the same player who had hit three Test tons in his first three appearances. Under him, the team did not lose a single series on the home soil. And yet, the same man who could not have done anything wrong in his career, got involved in match-fixing, got banned for life and had to bid adieu to international cricket prematurely. Not that he was any young; he was 36 when it all surfaced. But prematurely because his illustrious Test career ended on 99 appearances, painfully one short of 100, which is an elite club.

What followed was years of battle with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and isolation from India’s cricketing scene. Azhar then found solace in politics, but kept his battle with the powerful board on. And finally, won the case against BCCI and got the ban lifted. And now, the BCCI has sent across the invite for India’s historic 500th Test. On this momentous occasion, Azhar got a bit nostalgic while talking to Wisden India, and revealed his emotions.

“I was only destined to play 99 Tests, I took that in a very positive manner,” Azhar told the website. He further went on to say, “I see winning the case as my 100th Test appearance. I have had a very successful career, and I have neither regrets nor a problem with anything. I am a very happy and contented person. A lot of people play no more than a handful of Tests, there are so many others who don’t get to represent their country at all. Against that backdrop, to play 99 Tests is not a small thing. Throughout my journey, people have been very nice to me. That is something I will cherish forever and be always grateful for.”

When the toss happens at Green Park, Kanpur, the same venue where Azhar hit his third hundred in only the third game of his career and his highest score of 199, the former Indian captain will also be present at the stadium along with other men who have led India in Test cricket. These former captains been invited by the board to be a part of the celebrations of India’s historic 500th Test. Another ground, which is close to his heart is Eden Gardens at Kolkata, which has been a happy hunting ground for him. It is a coincidence that India’s 500th and 501st Tests will be played in Kanpur and Kolkata. Azhar certainly is not complaining. “Happy that 500 and 501 are in Kanpur and Kolkata,” a jovial Azhar told the website.