But then this review is not about how his career ended, its about Harsha Bhogle's book on the wristy genius who was one of India's finest batsman as well as captain. This book was published in 1994 and chronicles Azhar's first ten years as an Indian superstar.
Harsha describes the close relationship Azhar shared with his grandfather and how he supported Azhar playing cricket. Unfortunately for Azhar, he died just before he made his debut against England. This was a tough time because he was playing for the India U-25 team led by Ravi Shastri, he needed a century for his claims for a Test spot to grow even stronger. Azhar was told his grandfather was very serious at the time but Ravi Shastri told him to go out and bat and Azhar scored a century and made his way into the Indian team but then came the bittersweet moment when he found out his grandfather had died.
The reader gets to find out how Azhar struggled after his blistering entry into Test Cricket, he scored only 4 50's in 12 matches before he found form scoring 199 against Sri Lanka. Harsha also makes the point that Azhar was very respectful of former players. After having a chat with Zaheer Abbas, Azhar changed his grip on the Pakistan tour of 1989/90, he didn't like the grip at all but went along and scored a career saving 100. He would have certainly been dropped had he not made a large contribution.
It started off with the toss at the Lords Test. Bedi told Azhar that if the toss was won, we should bat. We did win the toss, but to the surprise of many including Mr Bedi, Azhar decided to field.
Harsha describes the relationship of Azhar with India's former players and indeed one current player. It is revealed his relationship with Ravi Shastri completely broke down and Azhar was one of the main reasons why Ravi Shastri decided to retire at only 30. We heard that Sachin's relationship broke down with Azhar late in the latter's career but we are told by Harsha that Azhar was deeply respected by Sachin and the other players. I would like to quote a sentence from the book, "Azhar looked at Tendulkar with whom he shares a wonderful rapport. The young man, not yet 21, said yes immediately." This was when Azhar asked Sachin to bowl the final over in the Hero Cup Semi Final.
Also Bishan Bedi's stint as Indian coach is covered. Now at one end was one of the most outspoken people in World Cricket and at the other end was a gentle spoken media shy captain. Their clash on the England tour of 1990 is covered. It started off with the toss at the Lords Test. Bedi told Azhar that if the toss was won, we should bat. We did win the toss, but to the surprise of many including Mr Bedi, Azhar decided to field. Bedi was furious because he felt his authority was being undermined and Azhar had only done what other senior players had told him to do. This led to a complete breakdown in relations. Of course the Test was a monumental disaster as England piled on the runs and Gooch scored a triple hundred. Azhar meanwhile played a brilliant 121 in response to that huge total.
There is something interesting mentioned by Harsha after a defeat by Pakistan at Sharjah which I would like to share with you in his own words, "For an Indian team, defeat by Pakistan is absolutely unpardonable, espcially if it comes at Sharjah. All of a sudden, the 'educated' Indian follower loses all cricketing judgement and lets his imagination rule his head. The most impossible allegations surface immediately. Matches are pronounced as 'fixed' and discussions are full of 'evidence' of how certain players had accepted money from certain brokers if a match went a particular way." This paragraph was perhaps the one in the book which represented Harsha's anger. I am totally sure that the allegations in 2000 hurt Harsha more than many other people.
There could not have been a more appropriate writer of this book than Harsha Bhogle, who knew Azhar many years before his Indian debut and who understood him on a personal level. Apart from this book, there is really not much we can look up if we want to know about Azhar so it is another reason to get this book. Despite the mistakes Mohammed Azharuddin made, he is one of the men that changed Indian cricket forever.