Biopic on former India captain Mohammad Azharuddin hits theaters on Friday with Emraan Hashmi playing Azharuddin and Nargis Fakhri playing his ex-wife Sangeeta Bijlani. And if there is one person who does deserve a silver screen presence for their life in the sporting arena, it is Azharuddin. A superstar in his own right, Azhar dazzled on the pitch much to the joy of his teammates and the fans. So at a time when he gets an on-screen presence, it must be understood that he has been a superstar much before it.
One of the best captains in the world
At a time when India were struggling to find someone to lead the side with quick turnarounds between Dilip Vengsarkar, Ravi Shastri and Krishnamachari Srikanth, Azharuddin stepped up to the plate and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. He led India from the front in 47 Test matches and 174 One Day Internationals winning 14 and 90 respectively – a record at the time. Later this record was overtaken by Sourav Ganguly in Tests (21 wins) and MS Dhoni in ODI’s (104 and counting).
Dramatic start to career – three matches, three tons
Making his debut in 1984 against a visiting England, Azharuddin got the best possible start to his career with three centuries in three back-to-back matches. The wristy right hander scored 110 in Kolkata, 105 in Chennai and then 122 at Kanpur. Unfortunately for him and India, though, two matches were drawn while England won one. In another dramatic twist to things and irony of it all, Azhar played 99 Tests with a highest score of 199 and ended things with a century (102) against South Africa in Bangalore in 2000 when curtains were dramatically drawn on a glittering career.
Style meets substance
Azhar was popular and admired for his fluid and calm batting style. The biggest asset to his game was the wristwork which was lauded across the board with former celebrated umpire S Venkataraghavan saying, “Azharuddin had the best wrists in the game.” His batting was nonchalant, oozing with panache and zest, something Hashmi found difficult to replicate in the movie. Not just that, Azhar had a swagger about him right from walking out on the field, placing himself in the slips to just fixing his taweez (amulet).
Match fixing scandal
The entire world came crashing down for Azharuddin on 5 December 2000 when he was implicated in a match fixing scandal that shook the entire cricketing fraternity with then South Africa captain Hansie Cronje also admitting to throwing matches. Additionally, more members from the South African and Indian cricket teams were suspended or banned for their role in bringing the game into disrepute. Not so surprisingly, this forms the backbone of the film.
Dramatic personal life
If the drama on the field and associated with the sport wasn’t enough, Azharuddin married actress Bijlani in 1996 while reportedly being married. Their marriage ended in 2010 but Bijlani had been an important aspect of Azharuddin’s life.