Mohammad Azharuddin exclusive interview: Hardik Pandya should learn to choose his words

Updated: Feb 08, 2019, 18:16 IST | Rahul Ramakrishnan

In an exclusive interview with mid-day online, former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin talks about his cricketing days, Virat Kohli's captaincy and the current crop of cricketers

Former captain of the Indian cricket team Mohammad Azharuddin, popularly called Azhar was in Mumbai recently and mid-day.com took this opportunity to catch up with the dashing ex-cricketer from Hyderabad, who has forayed into politics after hanging his cricketing boots.

Mohammad Azharuddin was known to be one the most stylish batsman in India especially for his beautiful wristy flicks down the leg-side. Azhar always made a style statement when he took to the cricket field be it with his collar up, or a chain dangling around his neck. He led India in 47 Tests and 174 One Day Internationals.

Though Mohammad Azharuddin stepped out of the cricket field about two decades ago, we noticed that the elegance in his stride is still the same as he walked into the 12-seater room at the Taj Lands End hotel in Bandra to chat with us. Azhar was sporting a blue tracksuit and a cap, looking fresh after a rigorous session at the hotel’s gym. After the initial handshakes and introductions, we sat down for a chat and Azhar slowly opened up about his playing days, the current scenario in cricket and other interesting stories.

Here are the excerpts from the interview

Your record of three centuries in the first three matches in International Test cricket, while debuting against England is yet to be broken. Your thoughts on it?
Actually, my first and second year in cricket wasn't so good. Playing Ranji was a very big thing back in the day. I was given a final shot at it by someone and I was told that only a century would cement my place and even a score of 80-90 would mean game over for me. As luck would have it, I scored 105 runs and was selected for the Duleep Trophy. It was a huge moment for me to get selected based on just 1 century. In the Duleep Trophy, I scored a double hundred and caught the eye of the selectors. From January 1984 to December 1984, everything clicked for me and I was selected in the Indian cricket team. I worked hard for my cricket and my hard work paid off.

You were the quintessential ‘Captain Cool’ of the 90s. What do you think of Virat Kohli’s brand of aggressive captaincy?
I think we all are different from one another. Also, from the time he first played for India up until now, Virat Kohli has mellowed down and maturity and experience have come in. Virat Kohli likes to play cricket in his way. It might not look good for some, but it works for him.Azharuddin and SachinVintage photo of Mohammad Azharuddin with Sachin Tendulkar and Ajay Sharma

What combination do you think India should play at the 2019 ICC World Cup? Your playing XI for India would be?
I think I would be very disappointed if India doesn’t win the World Cup in 2019. India has all the talent and ammunition to win the Cup in England. I think India should include Rishabh Pant in the playing XI and he should bat at the number 4 spot. But all said and done, Rishabh Pant still needs to improve his wicket-keeping skills in the longer format of the game, where focus and concentration come in to play.

Recently a Pakistan player was caught on the stump mic for absurd sledging against a South African player. In your time, stump mics were at a nascent stage, so sledging was not audible. Do you recall any of the sledging you received while batting? Which team was the most aggressive in the same?
I can’t remember any sledging that was directed towards me during my playing days but whatever Sarfraz Ahmed said was not acceptable and should not be done by anybody in any walk of life. He received a ban for it and it was justified.

There is a certain connection between cricketers and Bollywood stars. We have seen so many love stories emerging, including yours. How do Bollywood-cricket love stories blossom and how do couples handle media attention?
This (media attention) is something that will always exist and it is unexplainable for me, but I think it is good. For a cricketer, it is important to remain cool on the field and off it. Actually, it is more important to remain cool off the field.

What are the 5 things one would always find in Azharuddin’s cricket kit during a series, apart from the usual cricket gear?
I would never carry too many clothes earlier as flights would not allow excess baggage. I used to carry 3-4 bats. I loved to unwind by visiting malls when we would travel overseas, as there weren’t too many shopping malls in India at the time. My favourite way to unwind would be sitting by the swimming pool staring at the water.

Which is your favourite dialogue from the movie Azhar? Can you please recite the dialogue for us?
There was a dialogue that my grandfather used to say which I don’t remember now. Well, the movie was good but it could have done much better at the Box Office.

Azhar, let's do fun session. I will say an individual's name and you need to say the first thing that comes to your mind about the person.

Virat Kohli: Fantastic

MS Dhoni: Captain Cool

Hardik Pandya: He has to choose his words

Mohammad Azharuddin: As a captain, I wanted others around me to do well too

Hyderabadi Biryani: I love it, but sometimes it's a bit too much for me

Ranveer Singh: The way he dresses is crazy, I would never do that

Any advice or message you would want to give youngsters who wish to take up cricket as a career?
It is important to have patience and keep working hard towards your goal in order to represent India. It is an honour to play for the Indian team and it takes a lot of hard work.

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Azharuddin appointed working president of Telangana Congress

After the interview, we showed Azharuddin few vintage photographs of his during his playing days and asked him to share his thoughts. Watch this space for more...

The Mumbai based agency Significant Sports is now handling Mohammad Azharuddin's campaigns.

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Exclusive Interview: Mohammad Azharuddin talks about Virat Kohli's captaincy

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