Home Cricket News What do you eat, Mumbai players asked me: Mohammed Azharuddeen | Cricket...

What do you eat, Mumbai players asked me: Mohammed Azharuddeen | Cricket News

MUMBAI: “I just like to play white-ball (cricket) more than red-ball,” he says, before offering a simple explanation for his preference. “The white ball travels (in the air) a bit more longer than the red ball, that’s it. It’s good to see when the ball is going like this,” he gestures as if he’s flying a paper plane.
Mohammed Azharuddeen did send the ball flying plenty of times when he blasted 11 sixes and nine fours during his blistering 54-ball unbeaten 137, which helped Kerala thrash Mumbai by eight wickets in a Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy game at the Wankhede Stadium on Wednesday night. His 100, off just 37 balls, was the second fastest in the history of the tournament. So badly did he pulverize Mumbai’s hapless bowlers that they started ribbing him: “They just started making fun of me. Bhai, kya khata hai (brother, what do you eat!). How are you hitting those big sixes,” he reveals.
“I didn’t expect to hit a 37-ball 100. I’ve worked on my batting against fast bowling. I’ve practiced the shots that I played in the match, hard hitting against the fast bowlers,” he says. “I love to, and am good at hitting straight. It was a true wicket, so I went in with full confidence,” he adds.
The 26-year-old’s ‘keeper-bat’s freakish knock should fetch him a handsome prize at the IPL auction in February, and help him fulfill his ambition of playing in the lucrative tournament. “My goal is to play in the IPL this year. Since my debut for Kerala in 2015, I haven’t had a chance to bat in the top-order, perform and make it to the IPL. This year, I’m clear in my mind what I want to do and how to approach a match. I was a bit confused about where I should bat, in the middle or tail, and how to make it to the IPL. However, this year, I was clear in mind about where I want to bat and how to approach a match,” he says in a zoom interaction with reporters.
Quiz him on the price tag he expects in the IPL auction, and he shies away. “I’m in a good zone. I’m not worried about the auction. I’m just concentrating on our fourth match against Andhra,” he stresses.
Naturally, you are tempted to ask him about whether he has met the man he’s named after, former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin. “I’ve met him thrice. My elder brother (Kamaruddeen) named me after him since he was a big fan of his. I’ve told this to Azhar sir also. If he saw (my innings), that will be nice,” he says.
Back in Thalangara, his family would have relished Azharuddeen’s onslaught on the Mumbai bowlers. “My family is cricket-crazy. Everyone in my family has played inter-district league matches. They couldn’t make it big, but they really supported me. I have seven older brothers, and everyone of them has played cricket, so obviously they followed by knock. If the match isn’t live on TV, they follow my score on the net,” he tells you.
Belonging to the current generation, it is not his namesake that Azharuddeen takes to be his hero. For him, and all young cricketers from Kerala, their idol is India player Sanju Samson, who is leading Kerala in this tournament. “Sanju bhai is my role model. I have been following him since I was 18. Even if I need a bat, I go and ask Sanju bhai for it. Whether I’m high or low in confidence, the first thing that comes to my mind is: talk to Sanju bhai and talk for just two minutes, and I’ll be ok,” he says.
He admits that, being a ‘keeper-bat like him, ‘Sanju bhai’ is his competitor also. “That’s a good thing. If I want to replace Sanju bhai, I’ve to be better than him,” he feels. And what did ‘Sanju bhai’ tell him after his amazing outing the other day? “For me, it (the innings) was a surprise, but Sanju bhai told me: ‘Everyday you’re playing like this only. In this match, it just came off, that’s it. For him, this (knock) wasn’t unexpected,” says Azharuddeen.
Has he ever batted like this previously? “I play these kinds of knocks in league matches in my hometown (Thalangara). I scored a 42-ball 142 in a small ground in a local match there. However, never in a proper match (have I batted like this),” he responds. Ironically, 48 hours after his unbelievable innings, Azharuddeen was out for a duck against Delhi on Friday. “It was a good ball from Ishant bhai,” he acknowledges.
Having won all their three games so far, Kerala, placed second in Group E, look to be in red-hot form, and set to make it to the Mushtaq Ali knockouts. “we’ve been playing as a team. Whoever performs, it doesn’t matter. In the end, we just need to win the match. That’s it,” he says.
A switch back to the opener’s role this season, after an unsuccessful stint in the middle-order, seems to have done a world good for Azharuddeen. “Basically, I’m an opener. I was an opener when I played age group cricket and then my (Kerala) debut in 2015 and in junior cricket. After Dav Whatmore came as Kerala coach, he made me bat in the middle-order, because he felt that the team needed a batsman like me there. I shifted there for the tram’s requirement. It wasn’t a good slot for me actually. So, I requested our new (Kerala) coach Tinu Yohannan to allow me to bat up,” he explains.
“It wasn’t like I had prepared specially to play against Mumbai. I never look at whether I’m playing Mumbai or Delhi. I just prepared the way I do before a game in the past and I went into my zone,” he sums up.

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