SAWAI MADHOPUR (RAJASTHAN): If the elections were a cricket field, Mohammad Azharuddin would have dismissed his opponents with an elegant flick off his legs.
Congress candidate Mohammad Azharuddin talks to a villager at Piloda village in Sawai Madhopur. (Himanshu Vyas/HT Photo)
But Tonk- Sawai Madhopur is no Eden Gardens and the former Team India captain knows very well that this is the hardest wicket he is in, a vicious turner at times and a green-top at others.
He has his task cut out for the April 24 polls, seeking re-election far from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh which had sent him to the Lok Sabha in 2009.
Despite his convincing win five years ago, the cricketing wonder from Hyderabad failed to make an impression with the masses in Moradabad – he was dubbed the 'non-resident MP' with little to his credit other than a string of broken promises.
This time the Congress has fielded Azhar from the desert state where he is taking on Sukhbir Singh Jaunpuria of the BJP, National People's Party (NPP) Jagmohan Meena and Independent candidate Makkhan Meena.
Tonk and Sawai Madhopur districts combine to form a single Lok Sabha constituency but Azhar must have realized by now that they area as different as Green Park and Feroz Shah Kotla.
Experts claim fielding Azhar was a calculated decision and part of a larger game plan of the Congress to influence Muslim voters in an arc comprising Ajmer, Jaipur and three districts of Shekhawati.
In the 2013 assembly elections, however, all 16 Muslim candidates of the Congress lost. Also BJP won all the eight assembly seats of this constituency.
Campaigning in Tonk constituency, Azhar looks like a child who has been forcefully sent to a boarding school by his parents.
He has little connect, generally avoids giving speeches and when he does, it smacks of a lack of strategy. And his best line too cliched. "I had hit a century at the SMS ground in Jaipur. Give me a chance and I will not disappoint you."
But, in a stadium where most spectators are cheering for NaMo, just surviving the opposition bouncers has become tricky.
Only batsmen to score three consecutive hundreds on debut; played 99 Tests
Azhar is credited with creating the style of keeping his shirt collar up; it was to prevent sun burns on his.
Azharuddin was captain of the Indian team for most of the 1990s. In 1991 he was named Wisden Cricketer of the Year.
In 2009 he was elected MP from Moradabad
Azhar was stranded one short of 100 Tests due to the match fixing slur on him which led to a ban imposed for life by BCCI. After 12 years, the court declared the ban illegal.