Thursday, October 07, 2004

The magic that was Azhar

Jan 4th 1997

It was another warm lazy day in Chennai and I was contemplating if I should go and attend classes at the esteemed center of learning called Crescent Engineering College. Seeing that a dosage of boredom would do me good after the past few days of fun and frolic, I decided to go.

As I was sitting in the hall wearing my shoes and hurriedly drinking my cup of tea, reflex action cause me to turn on the television. I was greeted with the sight of Mohammed Azharuddin and Sachin Tendulkar walking into bat. India was touring South Africa and the second test was in progress. We were getting our asses kicked in royal style. They had piled up a huge first inning total and our inning was tottering with no hope in sight. Azhar had retired hurt the previous day after being hit by a nasty bouncer. The papers were awash with stories on how poor Azhar was against the short ball peppered with some nasty comments by the South Africans. So I was curious to see how he would fare today. I decided to watch a couple of overs and then leave. As I watched him take guard the UNIX acronym WTF popped into my head. I noticed that he had changed his side-on stance to almost a chest-on one.
And then the carnage started. What followed was (in my opinion) one of the most violent counter attacks ever witnessed in Test history. It was as if Azhar had plunked an India tri-color in the face of the South African attack and said:

Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing in the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall!

Azhar and Tendulkar tore into attack. They scored over 200 runs in just 40 overs. No bowler was spared. Lance Klusener must be still having nightmares about the beating he took from the two batsmen. I could see that there was a half smile on his face and it looked like his gleaming eyes were saying, “Let them come, there are still two Indian batsmen here who will drink your blood”. But like all good things this partnership too came to an end. No bowler could have could have gotten his wicket that day…he was run out. It does not matter to me that India lost that test. I had seen Azhar and SRT show those men of will, what will really was…
And I never ended up going to college that morning.

But he is also the same man who went from being a magician to a sorcerer in a matter of days when the betting scandal erupted. Why did he do it? Was it just the money, did his wife make him do it or was he innocent? Only God and Azhar know. All I know is that one of the brightest stars of Indian cricket passed into shadow and this poem says it all…

Where now the horse and the rider? Where is the horn that was blowing?
Where is the helm and the hauberk, and the bright hair flowing?
Where is the hand on the harpstring, and the red fire glowing?
Where is the spring and the harvest and the tall corn growing?
They have passed like rain on the mountain, like a wind in the meadow;
The days have gone down in the West behind the hills into shadow.
Who shall gather the smoke of the dead wood burning,
Or behold the flowing years from the Sea returning?

Disclaimer: Both the poems are from JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings.