The cricketing rivalry between India and Pakistan goes back a long way. Whenever these two neighbouring countries have squared off in a cricket match, several tense situations have transpired owing to fierce sledging among the players.
Referring to the on-field battles between the arch-rivals, former Pakistan cricketer Basit Ali shelled out some dressing room secrets from his career days, while having a live chat with ex-India skipper Mohammad Azharuddin on his personal YouTube channel.
Ali, who served a brief period with the Pakistan national team and appeared in 19 Tests and 50 ODIs, shared that during team meetings, they were asked to trouble the Indian cricketers. Though the Pakistani team were ready to sledge other Indian cricketers, there was a strict no in the case of Azharuddin.
According to Basit Ali, Indian players like Sachin Tendulkar, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Ajay Jadeja and Vinod Kambli, all faced harsh sledging from him. However, the entire Pakistani unit used to drop the endeavour whenever the name of Mohammad Azharuddin came out. Ali explained the reason and said, “I am falling short of words to describe the amount of respect we used to have for Azhar bhai in our Pakistan dressing room.”
Ali stated in the video that even big names in Pakistan cricket during that era including Wasim Akram, Salim Malik, Rashid Latif, Inzmam-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis did not dare to say anything about Azharuddin as they also had huge respect for the former India captain. “I don’t remember any Pakistan player ever insulted Azhar bhai,” he recalled.
Mohammad Azharuddin who was the main guest of the YouTube session, also reminisced about his playing days. The 59-year-old disclosed a story about Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar who was just a newcomer in the Indian team, led by Azharuddin. He said that Tendulkar once came with a request to promote him up in the batting order as he wanted to open the innings in the ODIs.
Azharuddin noted, “Sachin used to bat in the middle order during his first 69 ODIs. He never got enough opportunities to come up in the order. He asked me and I couldn’t say no to such a talented batter.” Apart from Tendulkar, he was also a support system for batters like Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid who had just kicked off their career.
Ali stated that Azharuddin sacrificed his own slot in the No 3 position to give them the chance. “When the likes of Ganguly and Dravid came up, Azhar bhai used to bat at No 3. He started playing lower down the order and left his slot for the youngsters,” the ex-Pakistan batter said.
During his over 15-year-long illustrious career, Mohammad Azharuddin played 99 Tests and 334 ODIs in the Indian outfit and recorded 6215 and 9378 runs respectively. Combining both formats, he notched up a total of 29 centuries and 79 half-centuries.