For most cricket fans, Mohammed Azharuddin remains an enigma. And Azhar, a film based on the former India captain’s life, does not provide an insight into the man which can negate the enigma tag.
Also read: 'Azhar' - Movie Review
The disclaimer at the start of the film that says it is not a biopic on the cricketer is too prominent to miss. Did Azharuddin fix matches? It’s a big question that will make cricket fans watch this movie which was released yesterday. Unfortunately, it does not leave you with a convincing answer. The three ODIs that were allegedly fixed by Azharuddin were — the South Africa vs India game at Rajkot in 1996, a match in Sri Lanka in 1997 and one in India in 1999.
Just before the intermission, Azharuddin is shown accepting money from a bookie called MK Sharma for an India vs Sri Lanka final in London in 1996. Fans would find this strange because India didn’t play the islanders in England during that season.
However, instead of under-performing, he plays a captain’s innings to help the team win the final. This is tactfully weaved when the judgment is delivered in a court that sets Azharuddin free from the life ban imposed by the Indian cricket board due to ‘unsustainable’ evidence.
As per the movie, that court order came after eight years since the 2000 match fixing scandal broke. In reality, the order was announced in 2012. Azharuddin then explains that he accepted money from the bookie because he did not want another player from his team being approached to under-perform. After the match, Azharuddin returns the money. In a game against Pakistan, Azharuddin is shown as a victim of bad umpiring after being adjudged leg before wicket despite an inside edge.
The fictional ring of the movie also comes to the fore when Azharuddin arrives in Mumbai to play a South Zone vs West Zone match, a selection match for the 1984-85 India vs England Test series in which Azharuddin makes his debut. The news of his beloved grandfather’s death is broken to him by Ravi Shastri, who gives Azharuddin the option of leaving for home. But, Azharuddin plays the match. However, in real life, it was a tour game against England and it was Shastri, who got Azharuddin to stay on and play the match.
With all the hype surrounding the movie, cricket lovers may head to the theatre, but they would do well to take the disclaimer more seriously than the scenes in the movie.