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.


sambar42 said...

That was a nice piece of writing. I am glad you finally wrote it.
Very appropriate too, we are now reeling in the first match against Australia. I wish our guys would remember the past heroics and pull something out of this mess.

Aslan said...

i hate cricket, but this recount still managed to grip my attn. those LOTR poems probly.. ;)

wenerd said...

Interesting that you raise this particular innings of one of the most beautiful batsmen to play for the country. I think that was the period (circa 97) when Azhar was transitioning from a touch artiste to a brute - read: open-stance, cross-batted shots, bouncer hooking, couldnt-give-a-damn-about the team etc. A revolution of sorts. It worked well in some scenarios like the one you've mentioned. However its interesting to note that that was also the period when our man was on the regular payroll of bookies across the world. It also was the period when his personality was transitioning from a nice guy / media friendly dude to an increasingly arrogant/ money on the sly / perpetual scowl on face chuth. One should also consider that the opposite captain was one Hansie cronje, who surely must have arranged for a couple of dropped catches! Just speculation. Nevertheless, an innings that cannot be forgotten for more reasons than one.

I personally prefer the touch artiste version of the man. A few of the memorable innings that comes to mind are the following.
121 vs England at London 1991
106 vs Australia at Adelaide 1992
182 vs England at Calcutta 1993

Hawkeye said...

hmm kogi,

good article..but i have to be picky on some aspects. firstly it was much earlier than dec 1997. I am saying out of memory so i may be off a little bit but i doubt it..

after WC 96, we had 2 ODI series in singapore and sharjah. we then went to england. After the eng tour there was a captaincy shift from azza to sachin. we hosted the aussies for a one off test in sep 1996.. then we had a "titan" tri-series between RSA, Aus and India which we won.. then we had a 3 test series with RSA.. and in the second test in kolkota .. azza retirre hurt after the ball hit him in the shoulder. after a lot of critisism he came back and scored a hundred ( the 5 fours of klusner and 88 from anil kumble).

After the test series we had a "Mohinder Amarnath" dedication ODI match in mumbai ( WV Raman opened with sachin) which we won. Then we toured RSA in Dec.. we lost the boxing match test in dec 26. In jan we had the second test match in "newlands" which is where VVS Laxman was promoted to #5 and azza demoted to # 6. after VVS laxman got out Azza and saching put on some 220 runs in a glorius partnership.. this was in Jan 1997.

if i remember right! dec 1997 SL was touring us. and also we didnt have college in Dec 1997. our 7th sem exams started on Nov 4... and got over on Nov 25'ish.. college re-opened on Dec 28 or 29 ( some few days b4 new year)

my young hobbit..details... god is in the details ( Michael crichton)

we had a titan cup series