“My temper has been an issue for me. It has been very hard for me.”—
Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.
Directed By: Tony D’Souza
Produced By: Shobha Kapoor, Ekta Kapoor, and Sony Pictures Networks
Written by: Rajat Aroraa
Emraan Hashmi as Mohammad Azharuddin.
Lara Dutta as Meera
Prachi Desai as Naureen, the first wife of Azharuddin.
Nargis Fakhri as Sangeeta Bijlani, the second wife of Azharuddin.
Kulbhushan Kharbanda as Azhar’s Nanu.
Rajesh Sharma as M. K. Sharma
Azhar, the movie, does not claim to be a biopic.
It is a fictionalised picturisation of Mohammad Azharuddin’s life-story. Azhar was the skipper of the Indian cricket team—making his way from a middle-class home to the pinnacle of Indian sport, from simplicity and humility to the easy arrogance of Armani suits, from a reclusive , reticent person to seeking and gaining the favour of one of Bollywood’s top actresses.
The movie is an attempt to whitewash and dramatize the Hyderabadi’s part in the match-fixing scandal that rocked the cricketing world in the 2000s.
Emraan Hashmi essays the title role with aplomb and mimics the former Indian skipper’s mannerisms to a T but is unable to dominate the frame in the way you’d expect a larger-than-life Azharuddin to do.
Azhar’s teammates are reduced to caricatures jealous of his success, philanderers and simply unwilling to be embroiled in the messy match-fixing soup the protagonist finds himself in.
The famous showdown between Navjot Singh Sidhu and Azhar during in the 1996 England tour wherein the Sikh famously walked out of the side and returned home is not even alluded to in the film.
Jaywant Lele, in his autobiography, reveals the reason was that Sidhu was constantly abused by his captain.
The movie focuses on the court case filed by Azhar against the life ban imposed by the ICC and the BCCI which incidentally he won in 2012. The ban was revoked by the BCCI in 2005.
The movie fails to capture other aspects of Azhar’s life such as the tragic death of his son Ayazuddin in 2011. The separation from Sangeeta Bijlani is skipped over and there is no mention either of this third marriage to long-time friend, Shannon Marie or his rumoured affair with Jwala Gutta—which incidentally both deny vehemently.
There is also little focus on his aggressive fielding at point and the training that made him one of the most brilliant fielders of his generation.
The women protagonists have surprisingly substantial parts in the film.
Prachi Desai as Naureen is demure, sensitive and suffering. She is dignity itself while certainly not a women’s lib proponent.
Hashmi portrays Azhar as both bewildered by the turn of events and his personal turmoil yet fascinated by his new love interest, Sangeeta Bijlani.
Bijli catches Azhar on the rebound from her failed relationship with Salman Khan, leader of the brat pack of Bollywood. Azhar’s dedication of his match-winning knock to his new love interest at a man-of-the-match ceremony—signalling the end of his first marriage—is crass and cowardly.
Nargis Fakhri as Sangeeta is disappointing, unable to capture her glamour or her chutzpah at snaring a married cricketer under the noses of his unsuspecting spouse and the media. She comes across as a weak-willed woman who succumbs easily to the advances of a married man. The melodramatic scenes evoke very little emotion. Fakhri is no thespian. Period.
Bollywood and cricket can never be divorced. Dalliances happen all the time but seldom end well.
Lara Dutta as Meera, the defending counsel, has the most substantial role after Hashmi in the film. She’s bold and gutsy, speaks her mind and makes no bones about turning from friend to foe, fan to hater.
Ajay Sharma, Manoj Prabhakar, Ajay Jadeja and Azharuddin were all banned by the BCCI—Prabhakar and Jadeja for five years.
Jadeja’s ban was lifted in 2003 and he made a return to domestic cricket but he was never the same batsman. He never played for India again. Nayan Mongia—accused by Azharuddin—-was forced to retire despite not being found guilty by the CBI.
Hansie Cronje was the most tragic victim of this match-fixing scandal dying in a plane crash.
MK Sharma (MK Gupta) is the bookie turned approver who introduces Azhar to the sordid world of match-fixing.
Azhar—in the movie—purportedly accepts a bribe but only to shield his teammates from temptation. The reasoning is so spurious that one would best walk out from the movie hall at this point.
Navneet Mundhra writing for SportsKeeda does a competent job of listing the facts and distortions in the movie.
(Mundhra’s piece refreshed my memory about the facts of the case. The match-fixing controversy was the first to hit Indian cricket and it was the reason why I stopped following Indian cricket for a while. The Indian cricket fan has never been the same—the joys of victories tinged with suspicions about losses. Tehelka made its reputation for hard-hitting journalism based on its revelations with Manoj Prabhakar’s assistance.
My memories of Azza are of a wristy batsman who burst on the scene as a bundle of talent scoring three consecutive Test centuries on debut in a home series against England after staking his claim with a series of excellent scores in domestic matches. Azhar had arrived.
He was not—by any reckoning—a brilliant skipper, more a lucky one. He began the trend of having pitches suit the home side in Indian cricket.
He had a weakness against short-pitched pace bowling which he responded to in a counter-attacking style—all aggression , preferring to die by the sword rather than live on his knees.)
The scoreboard listing the mangled names of Sri Lankan and Indian players gives the game away.
The movie would have appealed to viewers more had it attempted to be a more accurate portrayal of Azhar’s feats and foibles. Look no further than The Program for a template.
The movie is bland and boring.
If you’re a die-hard Azhar fan, you’re better off staying home and catching his batting and fielding videos instead on Youtube or DVD.
Caricom’s main purpose is to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy. It is also a regional single market for most of its members.
Barbados Cricket Association (BCA)
Guyana Cricket Board (GCB)
Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA)
Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB)
Leeward Islands Cricket Association (LICA), itself composed of:
Anguilla Cricket Association
Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association
British Virgin Islands Cricket Association
Montserrat Cricket Association
Nevis Cricket Association (for the island of Nevis alone)
St. Kitts Cricket Association (for the island of St. Kitts alone)
St. Maarten Cricket Association
United States Virgin Islands Cricket Association
Windward Islands Cricket Board of Control (WICBC), itself composed of:
Dominica Cricket Association
Grenada Cricket Association
St. Lucia Cricket Association
St. Vincent & the Grenadines Cricket Association
The Caricom Cricket Review Panel was constituted by the Prime Ministerial Committee on the Governance of West Indies Cricket.
The members were:
Prof. Eudine Barriteau, Pro-Vice Chancellor and Principal, The University of the West Indies.
(Cricket Studies is an academic discipline internationally and in the Caribbean, at The University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.)
Rt. Hon. Sir Dennis Byron, President, Caribbean Court of Justice.
Dr. Warren Smith, President, Caribbean Development Bank.
Mr. Deryck Murray, West Indies Cricket Legend.
Mr. Dwain Gill, President, Grenada Cricket Association.
The West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) publishes its Vision as:
To establish and sustain West Indies cricket as the sporting symbol of the West Indies, and the West Indies team as the dominant team in international cricket.
and its Mission is:
To develop and promote West Indies cricket for the benefit and enjoyment of the West Indian people, its clients and other stakeholders by procuring a consistently high-quality, successful and international West Indian product.
The Caricom Cricket Review panel criticises the existing governance structure of the WICB which focuses solely on the shareholders in the body namely the six territorial boards and the WICB itself.
Other stakeholders such as “several Caribbean governments who finance the construction and maintenance of the stadia where the game is played; several important industries such as tourism, aviation and food and beverages; former players, some of whom constitute an elite group of exemplary ambassadors of the game known as the Legends and the current players, both women and men, and their representative organization, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) constitute another key group of stakeholders and finally, the Caribbean public” have been either side-lined or completely ignored.
West Indies cricket is a public good.
Interestingly, the panel states that “it has no issues with the individuals who occupy the leadership and composition of the WICB or the territorial Boards” and then commences an unbridled assault on the current Board and its state of affairs. The above statement appears redundant. Why make such a statement? The Cricket Review Panel was formed to investigate the current workings of the existing system and recommend reforms that would help better the state of Windies cricket. Why even bother to try and mollify the current incumbents?
The panel also terms the current governance structure “obsolete”.
It then recommends the dissolution of the WICB and the appointment of an interim board.
Panel members cite the precedent of an interim board appointed by the Sri Lankan government to run matters. What has been conveniently omitted is the fact that Sri Lankan cricket has often been run by government-appointed interim committees one of which left the Board financially crippled after the co-hosting of the 2011 ODI World Cup.
The antecedent, one hopes, only pertains to the feasibility of such an imposition and not mismanagement by the interim board.
The panel then points out the lowly ranking of men’s and women’s cricket teams to justify their indictment of the WICB’s bad governance.
The men’s team failed to qualify for the 2017 Champions’ Trophy, the first time in West Indian cricketing history that the side will not be participating in a World tournament. Other reasons listed are the team’s Test ranking—sliding to number eight, recent abandoning of the Indian tour, suspension of coach Phil Simmons following his stated despair about not being able to field the best eleven for the tour of Sri Lanka, West Indies Players Association (WIPA) not being fully representative of players and reduction of home Test series to just two-or-three games.
Other concerns expressed are the unhappy state of women’s cricket, whether a private company structure can deliver a public good, universal concern in the traditional and online media about the state of governance, absence of vision and lack of accountability.
The panel draws upon recommendations from past governance reports specifically the Wilkins and Patterson ones to propose a new structure.
The new structure will comprise five board/management committee/directors handling the following functional areas:
The emphasis is to be on professional competencies over territorial considerations.
The number of Board members is to be reduced to just nine.
One Board Member will specifically represent Women’s Cricket.
A head-hunting firm will oversee the selection process which will review candidates chosen by the Nominations Council.
The Caribbean Development Bank must be asked to fund “a team of consultants to define the process and regulatory framework for a transformed Board’s management structure, governance arrangements and shareholding in a new dispensation.”
The six territorial boards must be incorporated under similar rules or criteria.
The Change Management expert will ensure the Board members are distinct from executive management personnel while forming the Interim Board.
Women’s cricket should be addressed in the vision statement of the Board.
The Board must develop “specific marketing and sponsorship strategies to popularize the game, especially with families and young girls and to promote the star female players as mentors and role models, as well as to enhance their commercial value to sponsors.”
Appendix III lists the names of interviewed persons as:
What he said:
“We were at airport and I said, ‘Baby, grab my bag’, two women started staring at us.”
Royal Challengers Bangalore opener and wicketkeeper K L Rahul recounts an unusually hilarious anecdote about his left-handed teammate Sachin Baby.
What he really meant:
“Was I looking at you, ma’am, when I said that? Was I, ma’am, was I? Owww!”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Baby, don’t Blush when I call you by name.”
“For me, perfection comes with a lot of hard work and dedication to every aspect of the game in the years, days, and hours leading up to the main event. If you have planned and practised every scenario many times over then you have a chance of performing perfectly on the big stage. As far as personal achievement fitting into a team game, my feelings are if you focus on doing the best things for the team, then your personal achievement will take care of itself. If you care more about your success then your team will suffer and so will your personal achievements.
— Mike Hussey.
What he said:
“When we go out to field and I’m standing at point, they ask me if I’m going to start eating the grass or not. “
Kane Richardson, South Australia and Royal Challengers Bangalore pacer, has turned vegan with a vengeance.
Terming the perception that a fast bowler has to “eat meat and drink alcohol” a stigma, the Aussie said:
“I didn’t want to eat animals. I challenged myself to stick to it, I guess it’s a diet but it’s not really a fad, it’s something you believe in.
I’ve done it for a year and-a-half, two years now but over this pre-season I’ll probably challenge myself to go vegan (a person who does not eat or use animal products) and train hard and see if I can do it and perform in four-day cricket.”
Richardson still enjoys his beer though.
“I’ve watched a lot of documentaries on it, and whether it’s right or wrong, I don’t know if that can be sustained the way people are gorging through food.Especially in Australia, we’re pretty spoilt with what’s available.
It’s just something I thought long and hard about and tried to change and have stuck to it since.
It’s just something I had to change with all the injuries that I had.
I did a lot of research on it. If it’s something that’s going to help me play for longer than I’ll definitely try it.
I’ll be vegetarian the rest of my life, it’s whether I can go full vegan, that’s the question.”
Peter Siddle is the other Australian bowler who embraced vegetarianism.
“I know Sidds (Peter Siddle) is the same, he’s quite big into that.
He’s got a platform in the media and he can try and help the way people treat animals, especially in India, it’s quite tough to see.”
What he really meant:
“My teammates can’t tell wheatgrass from any other kinds of grass—including weed!”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I’d chew the cud if I weren’t clever enough to carry veg snacks in my trouser pockets such as raw carrots and fresh mini-tomatoes.”
While the Supreme Court continues to flay the BCCI and its associate members for dragging their feet on the Lodha Panel reforms, it has gone quiet on the Western front specifically the CARICOM coast.
It’s been a time of jubilation and turmoil for West Indian cricket.
The Calypso swingers under Darren Sammy uncorked an unprecedented second T20 World Cup win in astounding fashion with Carlos Brathwaite proving an unlikely hero. Their women’s team had the very same afternoon clinched their first ever World Cup in any form of the game.
Sammy , ever the team champion, utilized the occasion to roundly castigate the West Indian Cricket Board (WICB) for its step-motherly treatment of the players.
“We started this journey … we all know we had … people were wondering whether we would play this tournament. We had a lot of issues, we felt disrespected by our board, Mark Nicholas described our team as a team with no brains. All these things before the tournament just brought this team together.”
The WICB President David Cameron was quick to respond.
In a statement purportedly praising the World T20 organisers India and Bangladesh, Cameron said:
“The President would like to however apologise for what could be deemed inappropriate comments made by the West Indies’ male captain, Darren Sammy, in a post-match interview and would like to apologise on behalf of the WICB to the millions of fans who witnessed. The President has pledged to enquire the reason and will have the matter addressed.”
He had earlier tweeted:
The ICC would later join the WICB in reprimanding Darren Sammy and his teammates for their comments that were “”inappropriate, disrespectful and [bringing] the event into disrepute.”
The ICC press release read:
“The board considered the behaviour of some of the West Indies players in the immediate aftermath of the final, and unanimously agreed that certain comments and actions were inappropriate, disrespectful and brought the event into disrepute.
This was not acceptable conduct at ICC events played out on a world stage in front of millions of people around the globe.
The board acknowledged an apology by the WICB but was disappointed to note that such behaviour had detracted from the success of what was otherwise a magnificent tournament and final.”
The gloss of the glorious treble of the U-19 World Cup, Women and Men’s T20 triumphs was wearing off quickly.
It wasn’t all rocky ground for West Indian cricket.
The newly minted BCCI and ICC head Shashank Manohar has been in an expansive mood notwithstanding the BCCI’s travails in the Supreme Court.
The Vidarbha lawyer first stated that he’s not in agreement with the ICC revenue-sharing formula wherein the Big Three—India, England and Australia—share the spoils and the leftovers distributed among the rest of the members.
Then the BCCI announced that bilateral ties between India and the West Indies would resume later this year. The cash-rich Indian body waived a $42 million damages claim against the abandoned 2014 tour. The West Indian cricketers flew home after the WIPA and WICB failed to resolve a long-standing pay dispute.
Late last year, the CARICOM cricket review panel suggested an immediate dissolution of the WICB. The panel was constituted by the Prime Ministerial Committee on the Governance of West Indies Cricket as a response to the crisis created by the damages slapped on the WICB following the pull-out from the India tour.
The panel recommended formation of an interim board to install a fresh governance framework with the assistance of a change management expert.
The WICB rejected the report and its findings unilaterally claiming that none of the members of the board were consulted by the panel members.
Legends of the game were not so forgiving. Coming together under the banner Cricket Legends, Garry Sobers, Viv Richards, Wes Hall, Andy Roberts and others met with Grenada premier Keith Mitchell, chairman of the Prime Ministerial Committee on the Governance of West Indies Cricket and sought the WICB’s termination.
That’s how the matter rests for now.
The following column will pore over specific recommendations from the panel and the WICB’s reasons for rejecting their proposals.
“Why only one God for cricket, guys? Why not multiple Gods? Think about it, the openers can be cricketing Ganeshas, the spinners can be cricketing Krishnas (because Sudarshan Chakra), the big hitters can be cricketing Shivas (because destroyer), etc. etc? Just because cricket was invented in England is no reason why, as a religion, it must be ‘vilayati’ too!
— Anuja Chauhan.
What he said:
“Well, i am eating the same breakfast as Virat Kohli. I think it is all about being consistent and about keeping my mind fresh.”
David Warner is quite competitive with his text messaged war of words with Virat Kohli mirroring their battle for the Orange Cap in the Vivo IPL.
“It was a vice versa about the orange cap for being the highest run-getter. He texted me the other day, saying he’s coming for the orange cap – and my reply was, i am going to come back and get it off you.”
Warner also elaborated on abstaining from alcohol:
“Look, it’s been almost a year now since i stopped drinking alcohol. I will complete a year on May 20. My wife was pregnant at that time and i thought, why not go the whole nine months without drinking too. It was just to give myself a goal, something to achieve away from cricket. I have been fortunate enough to do that so far.
Once i get to the one-year mark, i will see what to do. I might keep not drinking or i might drink, who knows.
But it’s not about drinking. It is about giving myself the best opportunity to recover and to play cricket.
I have two daughters and a fantastic wife and they provide me all the support i need to achieve goals with. There is a life after cricket as well. Cricket is not the be-all and end-all and it is about setting myself up for after cricket.
Having stability off the field is always fantastic.”
What he really meant:
“A hearty breakfast for a healthy body makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise and a contender for the Orange Cap. I’m certainly not eating text messages for breakfast.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“Kellogg’s—Breakfast of Champions.”
“But, what use is a well-thought-out field setting when the batsman is hitting the ball out of the ground?”