In 2000 he had made a disgraceful exit from cricket on match-fixing charges.



Hyderabad: Nineteen years after his disgraceful exit from the cricket world on match-fixing charges, former Indian cricket captain Mohammad Azharuddin, 56, commenced his second innings after he was elected as president of the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA) in nail-baiting elections on Friday evening. The former Congress MP from Moradabaad is likely to quit his party and join the ruling TRS next week.

Azharuddin, along with his newly elected panel members of HCA, one of the cash-rich cricketing bodies in the country and with potential to play a role in the affairs of the BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India), called on TRS working president and Telangana IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao (KTR) at his residence on Saturday morning.

Azhar, as he is fondly called by his friends and fans, is expected to call on Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) on Sunday or sometime next week where he is expected to announce his decision to join the ruling TRS. After his meeting with KTR, Azhar told his fans that any decision on his next political moves would be announced “at the right time”.

Ironically, the election of Azhar, who is currently the working president of the Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee (TPCC), was celebrated with bursting of crackers and song and dance at the party headquarters, Gandhi Bhavan in Hyderabad, as soon as the counting of votes was over at 6 pm, on Friday. TPCC president N. Uttam Kumar Reddy and the entire team of PCC greeted Azhar on his victory.

However, the fact is that Azhar has won this election thanks to the discreet understanding with the ruling TRS and support of KTR who tilted dozens of cricket bodies and clubs which have voting rights. Azhar got 147 votes as against his rival Praksah Chand Jain’s 73, while another contestant Dileep secured just three votes. Of the total 227 votes, three were not polled.

This election as president of HCA is crucial for Azhar from two angles: first, he can now hope to start a new life in the cricket world after his ignominious exit in 2000 on charges of match-fixing. That jolt not just ended his cricket sporting career, but also damaged his personal life and public image as an Indian cricketer. His subsequent delayed exoneration from the charges couldn’t bring cheers to him.

His election is a sort of “sweet revenge” for him as he lost as president to former Congress MP (now in BJP), G. Vivek in the HCA elections two years ago. Since then, there was a legal battle between the Azhar camp and Vivek, which ultimately turned against the latter. Vivek, who held a position of adviser to the government, had to forego the HCA president post on charges of conflict of interests.

Vivek’s Visaka Industries owns a pavilion as well as some advertising rights inside the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium at Uppal in Hyderabad and HCA owes huge sums of dues to the company. Vivek, who lost his post, tried hard to get back HCA, but couldn’t as he quit TRS after being denied MP ticket from Peddapalli (SC) early this year. Later, Vivek joined BJP.

Vivek tried hard to defeat Azhar and his panel by backing the Jain panel, but the blessings of KTR helped the former cricket captain take on the former HCA president’s clout. According to sources close to Azhar, there was a pact before HCA elections that he would join TRS in lieu of the support extended by KTR to win the president post.

Moreover, KTR and Chief Minister KCR are keen on weaning away Azhar, who enjoys some support in Hyderabad city, to their side so that Congress would suffer a jolt in the coming Greater Hyderabad Municipal Elections. Azhar’s defection to TRS would also please AIMIM chief and MP Asaduddin Owaisi who faced a potential threat from the former Indian cricket captain.

Azhar’s gritty battle against Vivek in the last two years had earned him friends like former cricketers N. Shiv Lal Yadav and Arshad Ayub who had solidly stood behind Azhar in the elections. Azhar’s other panelists who won are: Johan Manoj (vice-president), R. Vijayanand (secretary), Naresh Sharma (joint secretary), Surender Agarwal (treasurer) and P. Anuradha (councilor).

After his meeting with KTR on Saturday, Azharuddin said that he wants to expand the activities of the HCA so that cricketing in Telangana would get a boost. “I want the support of the state government and Chief Minister KCR is our boss to us all. Certainly, I will take the cooperation of the government and there is nothing wrong in that,” he said. It appears that his joining TRS is a matter of when, not if.

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