Mohammed Azharuddin, one of India's most successful captains, fell out of grace when a match-fixing scandal in 1999 scandalised world cricket and abruptly ended his career.
Azharuddin was banned for life and he became a recluse. Ten years later, Azharuddin has got a second chance: in politics. He is returning to public life and joined the Congress in New Delhi on Thursday. Why did he decide to join politics and the Congress? CNN-IBN asked him.
“For the last two years I was not decided what to do. The Congress party has been for the last so many years. They have made so many sacrifices. They fought for India’s freedom. I always thought I had the ability to help people and I chose this medium. I am very happy about it,” he said.
Azharuddin denied that he had kept the option of joining the Telangana Rashtra Samiti too. “There have been lot of rumours floating and I didn’t say anything about it.”
Cricketers haven’t had a good track record in politics. Former captain M A K Pataudi contested an election, and lost his deposit. Does that worry Azharuddin, who is speculated to get a Congress ticket in Hyderabad?
“It is not in my control. I am not the captain anymore. Whatever the party decides and whatever they feel best I will be very happy to do that.”
Does the heat and grime of politics bother him? “I never look back; I always look ahead. I am a positive person. There are times when people are going to be nasty—I am ready for it. I can’t expect everybody to say good things about me, so I have to sometimes keep my eyes and ears closed.”
Political opponents will rake up the match-fixing scandal. Is he ready to face the slurs again? “I am not interested in all those things. My job is to strive hard and make sure that the party succeeds in the elections.”
Only talent and competence matter in sports, but politics is not a leveller. Azharuddin’s religion will be an issue and people may say the Congress is using him for Muslim votes. Is it?
“I am always positive, never negative. You are not going to get any negative reply to that question. I always look ahead; I am prepared for any eventuality.”