20 June, 2007
The charmingly callow Azhar
By: Harsha Bhogle
One of the greatest cataclysms of my teenage years was the day I discovered that an army of termites, nibbling and burrowing away out of sight, had laid waste to the wooden bookshelf that housed all my cricket books. Some of the books themselves, having after all been wood in a past life, had also not survived the attack. Out of the ruined city of cricket literature I fished out my prized copy of Harsha Bhogle’s Azhar, which I diligently read every year. I was not to know it then, but in a couple of years the reputation of the book’s subject was to be similarly in tatters.
That is not to take away from Bhogle’s book, which chronicles not just the career of one of the greatest batting geniuses of all time (perhaps only Brian Lara amongst batsmen after Azhar has given such pleasure) but indeed a different age of cricket. Even by the time he reached the highest stage, Azhar was remarkably, even charmingly, callow - for his Test debut he borrowed a close friend’s helmet, having never worn one before. Captaincy later made a different man of him, and the enigma of his batting was echoed in the meandering routes of his personal life and his dealings with bookies. Still well worth reading, though you may want to fill in some blanks yourself.
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