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Fresh Innings
It’s official: Azhar’s in Cong team
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 19
Former Indian cricket team skipper Mohammad Azharuddin formally joined the Congress party on Thursday. Azharuddin fielded all question from the mediapersons at the AICC headquarters in the afternoon before meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi at her 10, Janpath residence. Batting like a seasoned cricketer, Azhar preferred to duck questions regarding his future plans. Sources, however, said the stylish right-handed batsman was most likely to contest on the party ticket from Hyderabad in the coming Lok Sabha elections.

From cricket to joining a political party, the transition for the ex-Indian cricket skipper was as spectacular as his innings in the game was. Huge crowds gathered outside the AICC headquarters proved that the middle-order batsman, famous for his wristy batting, had lost none of his touch.

Azhar refused to give any indication whether he would contest the coming Lok Sabha polls, saying that he was leaving the decision to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the party High Command.

He said it was for the Congress President and the party high command to decide when and from where he would contest elections. “I will put in my best effort as I did when I used to play cricket. I want to work in the larger interest of the party. I am not the Captain any more... I am now a player. If the party decides I am good enough (to fight elections) I will contest,” he said in response to a question whether he was ready to contest.

On why he chose to join the Congress, the former cricketer said he had always been a fan of the party and also of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, more so after the latter called him up to congratulate him for having scored three consecutive hundreds in first three tests of his career in 1984.

“I am quite happy to be in front of a large gathering after a long time. I am a child of destiny and destiny has played a very important role in my life. I have been an admirer of the party, the role it played in the freedom movement and the effort it has made towards the country’s development. It is the only party that has made so many sacrifices,” Azharuddin added.

The cricketer, who had been banned from the game in 2000, for his alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal, also clarified that there was no case pending against him in any court. He had met Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy, Moily and PCC chief Srinivas last month and expressed his desire to join the party.

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Cong inducting fixers: BJP

New Delhi, February 19
The BJP today threw a bouncer at the Congress for its move to induct former Indian skipper Mohammed Azharuddin alleging that only “fixers” were joining the ruling party.

“All the fixers in the nation are either joining the Congress or the Samajwadi Party,” party spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain told reporters here today. Azharuddin had been banned from cricket in 2000 for his alleged involvement in the match-fixing scandal that had rocked the game internationally. However, he has not been indicted for any guilt. According to sources, the former cricketer has shown interest in contesting the Lok Sabha elections from Hyderabad and conveyed it to the Congress leadership. Azharuddin was India’s most successful captain till Sourav Ganguly bettered his feat. — PTI

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