A lot of films are being made on cricketers nowadays. While a biopic on former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin by the name 'Azhar' got released on May 13, two more films---on MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar---are set to release, in that order.
Biopics on cricketers is not something unexpected in India for this country is known to worship its cricketers as gods. But why can't we pick the high points of India's rich cricketing history when deciding to make films? If we are choosing individuals, why not choose from those who had brought the country more respect than those who nullified all the good work done by getting themselves tainted in controversial issues?
Azharuddin, also former Congress MP, is a forgotten figure now. The Emraan Hashmi-starrer could make him temporarily alive in the common man's memory but the fact that he has been disgraced can never be denied.
A film on Azharuddin pays the game in which India has excelled over eight decades now a little back. It's nothing more than using the game and its dark phase to make commercial gains. Sports is perhaps the only field in which the creative mind finds enough resources for a positive story. If controversies are only searched for, there are enough gangsters and underworld dons to look for.
Films on Dhoni and Tendulkar are welcome as the duo has given India unparalleled success in the world stage---be as captain or player.
Dhoni's feats as a captain and Tendulkar's as a batsman are something to which the cricketing world will take a long time to respond in a matching voice. Films on them are thus a perfect tribute to their world-beating talents.
But the same can't be said about Azharuddin. The stylist right-handed batsman was undoubtedly a treat to watch on his days, but his achievements never match either those of Dhoni as the captain or Tendulkar as the batsman though he had served Indian cricket in both positions for quite a long time. Or are other personal issues of the former cricketer seemed more saleable in the film-maker's view?
As a captain, Azhar's record only speaks about quantity and not quality. He had been the skipper for the entire 1990s, barring a few phases between 1996-97 and in 1999 when Tendulkar was the captain. But while his captaincy record in 174 ODI matches was yet a bit better (90 wins, 76 losses, 2 tied matches and 6 no results), his performance as a Test captain was thoroughly disappointing.
Tendulkar's track record as the captain was even worse but the world remembers him more for his batting prowess.
Leading the side on 47 occasions, Azhar could emerge the winning captain 14 times while on another 14 occasions, he was on the losing side. Nineteen matches were drawn.
But the worst part of these records is that Azharuddin was one of India's worst captains when playing abroad. In Tests, the man saw only one win abroad and that, too, in Sri Lanka, which is not much away from India's southern coasts. In ODIs, India won 50 of the 116 matches played abroad while lost in 59. In three World Cups that he led, India did not make the finals even once.
The best result was to reach the semis in 1996, when the tournament was held at home. One can't even remember Azharuddin leading India to a major multi-side tournament victory apart from the hero Cup in 1993.
India didn't even tour Australia or South Africa for more than once under Azharuddin's captaincy. Neither did he lead the side to the West Indies even once during his tenure.
As a captain, thus, Azharuddin was no extra-ordinary even though he was at the helm before and after India's liberalisation period commenced, which itself marks an era.
As a player, the Hyderabadi was better for sure. The wristy right-hander had a superhuman debut in international cricket with three centuries in the first three Tests against England. In fact, six of Azhar's 22 Test hundreds came against England while his second-best prey was Sri Lanka, against who he hit five tons.
But it is also true that only six of Azhar's Test tons came outside Asia and India didn't win any of those matches. Azhar hit five of those centuries as the captain (one against South Africa in 1997 was under Tendulkar's captaincy) but India lost three of them and drew two.
In ODIs, Azhar hit seven centuries but all but one came on docile Asian pitches, the furthest being Sharjah. Only one of his tons came outside Asia and it was in Toronto in 1998 against Pakistan. India lost that match played under his captaincy.
His records clearly show that Azharuddin batted like a champion on slow subcontinental wickets but hardly had the same success abroad. The number of his centuries against Australia and South Africa, two of the formidable bowling attacks in his time, in their own den is just two (Adelaide in 1992 and Cape Town in 1997). Comparing this with Tendulkar: the latter hit two tons in his 1992 tour of Australia alone under Azhar's captaincy as a 19-year-old).
Coming back to Azhar's captaincy, the man who was backed by the late Raj Singh Dungarpur as the captain after India saw its top position turning into a musical chair in the late 1980s, it is still a mystery that the man was made the captain again in 1998 after Tendulkar's brief service of a few months.
Being a player who was accused of blowing up the team's interest at crucial junctures of the match under a different captain, it was surprising on what grounds was the 35-year-old Azhar reinstated as the skipper in the place of a 25-year-old Tendulkar.
He led India in yet another disapoponting World Cup in 1999 and it was then that his tenure came to an end finally, thanks to the arrival of new-generation cricketers in Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid.
Given such a track record, Azharuddin hardly qualifies to be an inspiration for a film, unless it is a desperate effort by some of his die-hard fan to restore his honour. India has seen players who have made far bigger constributions to the country's cricketing tales and it becomes the film makers' responsibility to revive those forgotten heroes in the minds of today's generation instead of glorifying a cricketer whose statistics do not make a special appeal.
If one wants to highlight India's cricketing credentials, then personalities like MAK Pataudi, Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev or even the likes of Vijay Merchant or Vinoo Mankad can be made alive on the screen. These are the ones who made India's name big on the international map. Even a gutsy captain like Sourav Ganguly helped India shed its 'paper tiger' tag before the Dhoni era sat.
We have a vast reserve of cricketing gems. It's now for us to indentify and present them before the future.