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‘Sledge Tendulkar, Sidhu, Jadeja as much as you want but don’t disturb Azhar bhai’: Basit Ali reveals Pakistan team’s dressing room secrets

Former Pakistan batsman Basit Ali recalls why they never sledged Mohammad Azharuddin whenever they faced India.

Mohammad Azharuddin, Mohammad Azharuddin Asia Cup 1995 final, Mohammad Azharuddin 90 vs Sri Lanka, India vs Sri Lanka 1995 Asia Cup final, IND vs SL Asia Cup 1995 final video, Navjot Singh SidhuFormer India captain Mohammad Azharuddin. (Express archive photo)
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‘Sledge Tendulkar, Sidhu, Jadeja as much as you want but don’t disturb Azhar bhai’: Basit Ali reveals Pakistan team’s dressing room secrets
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Former Pakistan batsman Basit Ali recalls the team discussion before they used to face India and why the senior players of the team issued a strict instruction “not to sledge” Mohammad Azharuddin.

Ali, a veteran of 19 Test and 50 ODIs, revealed the reason why the Pakistan senior players didn’t want to disturb the former India captain while they faced their arch-rivals.

“Before every India match, I was given the responsibility to sledge the Indian players. I was told to disturb Sachin (Tendulkar), Jadeja (Ajay), Sidhu (Navjot), Kambli (Vinod), but the moment Azhar bhai’s name used to come, the entire team unanimously said no would disturb Azhar bhai. I don’t have words to describe the amount of respect we used to have for Azhar bhai in our dressing room,” Basit said in his YouTube channel while having a conversation with Mohammad Azharuddin.

“Be it Wasim (Akram) bhai, Salim Malik, Rashid Latif, Inzmam-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis, they would no dare to sledge Azhar bhai. I don’t think any Pakistan player ever insulted Azhar bhai,” said Ali.

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During the conversation, Azhar also recalled when Sachin Tendulkar came to him and requested him that he wants to open in the ODIs.

“During his first 69 ODIs, Sachin has batted in the middle order and he never used to get that many opportunities down the order. He asked me, and I can’t say no to such a talented player,” recalled Azhar.

Basit Ali also recalled how Azhar made players and sacrificed his place for the likes of Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.

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“Azhar bhai used to bat at No 3 and when the likes of Ganguly and Dravid came up, he started batting low down the order and gave the youngsters his slot,” said Basit.

When asked about the ongoing debate of who is the best batsman among Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Babar Azam, the former India captain replied: “Steve smith is the best batter of this generation. He gives you 100 per cent a chance to get him out. His playing style is also very aggressive, that’s what I like the most about him.”

On the all-time great batsmen debate, Azhar said: “Growing up I admired Greg Chappell but there was no better batsman than Sunil Gavaskar.”

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Azhar said West Indies pacer Courtney Walsh is the bowler he hated to face during his playing career. “Courtney Walsh has troubled me a lot. I never used to pick him. It was because of his action.”

On the best Pakistan batsmen he has seen during his playing days, Azhar said: “The most entertaining were definitely Javed (Miandad) bhai but when it comes to technique Saeed Anwar was a brilliant player.”

First published on: 24-01-2023 at 11:21 IST
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