The guy being greeted is undoubtedly the most stylish Indian batsman ever. Yes, I'm talking about the 'magician with a cricket bat' - our very own Mohd Azharuddin. He celebrates his 44th Birthday today. I read his Wisden Profile some time back and was so mesmerised by it. Not even the greatest Don Bradman can match him in one thing - Azhar scored a hundred in both his first and last innings!
Those who saw this supreme batting artist at his peak will never forget him - sinewy wrists transforming a slender piece of willow into a magician's wand. Azhar's leg-side play was reminiscent of Zaheer Abbas and Greg Chappell - a Michelangelo in the midst of housepainters. In later years, he expanded his off-side repertoire, and conjured some of the finest innings played in the modern era - his 121 at Lord's in 1990 was one for the gods. His technique was suspect against the short stuff, a deficiency he sought to overcome through instinctive strokeplay, sometimes with cavalier disregard for the team situation. As captain, Azhar enjoyed tremendous success on made-to-order home pitches, while right to the end of his career he was peerless in the field, whether prowling the covers or pouching catches at slip. He announced his arrival, against England in 1984-85, with three hundreds in his first three Tests, a feat that has never been match, while his last Test innings also bore him a hundred. But then allegations of match-fixing provided an emphatic full stop. That he finished his career with 99 Tests is perhaps appropriate for one who came within a whisker of batting immortality - only to throw it all away at close of play.
Take a look at his test debut:
3rd Test Ind Vs England, Eden Gardens, Calcutta 31 December 1984, 1,3,4,5 January 1985 (5-day match)
1st Innings M Azharuddin c Gower b Cowans 110(Runs) 443(Mins) 322(Balls) 10(Fours)
2nd Innings Do Not Bat (DNB)
4th Test, MA Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, Madras, 13,14,15,17,18 January 1985 (5-day match)
1st Innings M Azharuddin b Cowdrey 48(R) 124(M) 90(B) 6(F)
2nd innings M Azharuddin c Gower b Pocock 105 279 218 18
5th Test, Green Park, Kanpur, 31 January, 1,3,4,5 February 1985 (5-day match)
1st Innings M Azharuddin c sub b Cowdrey 122(R) 375(M) 270(B) 16(F)
2nd Innings M Azharuddin not out 54 71 43 5
He could have scored another one had it not been Gavaskar's unnecessary declaration.