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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 12:43 GMT 13:43 UK
Azhar harbours comeback dream
By Shahid Hashmi
BBC Sport in Colombo

It is now almost four years since Mohammad Azharuddin was given a life ban from cricket.

Mohammad Azharuddin
People still love me
Mohammad Azharuddin

He continues to fight to clear his name, however, and refuses to walk away from the game, cherishing the dream of making an international comeback.

His presence as a TV analyst at the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka has been greeted with surprise and suspicion, but he is unrepentant.

"I am here as a commentator, it is my right and my profession," he told BBC Sport.

"I had offers before but since I was busy in setting up my gymnasium I turned them down. After completing my project I had time to do commentary."

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has no say over media accreditation for the tournament but president Ehsan Mani made his feelings known to Indian television channel Ajtak.

"There is zero tolerance for corruption in cricket and there should be no position in the game for a player who has been banned by his own cricket board," Mani has been quoted as saying.

Despite that, 41-year-old Azharuddin is enjoying his return.

"I am happy to be back in cricket and hope that I win my appeal against the ban which will pave the way for me to revive my career.

"I keep myself fit because the demands of international cricket have increased manifold and once I clear my name I will definitely want to be back on the field."

He arrived on the international cricket scene with a bang, hitting hundreds in his first three Tests in 1984-85, still a unique feat.

Zimbabwe's David Houghton and Mohammad Azharuddin
Azharuddin captained India in 47 of his 99 Tests

His downfall, after scoring 6,215 runs in 99 Tests, including 22 hundreds, and 9,378 in 334 one-day games, left Indian cricket fans stunned.

A report from the Crime Bureau of Investigation in Delhi named Azharuddin and eight other international cricketers as being involved in match-fixing.

It eventually led to three international captains - Azharuddin, Pakistan's Salim Malik and South African Hansie Cronje - receiving life bans.

Cronje died in a plane crash in June 2002, but the other two still protest their innocence and are fighting to clear their names through the courts.

"When I look back I played for India with pride but I met a cruel fate," said Azharuddin, who led India in three World Cups.

Unlike Malik, who recently said he faced public scorn and hatred, Azharuddin's life is comfortable.

"People still love me and I never faced any uneasy time while meeting people," he added.

Away from media attention his two sons - Asaduddin and Aiazuddin - play cricket at junior level in his home town, Hyderabad.

If his comeback hopes come to nothing, he hopes his sons will one day play Test cricket.

If they have inherited their father's talent, they will be impossible to ignore.




SEE ALSO
Azharuddin loses court case
27 Aug 03 |  Cricket
Azharuddin 'to start academy'
17 Apr 03 |  Cricket
Azharuddin vows to return
15 Jan 01 |  Cricket
Azharuddin hit with life ban
05 Dec 00 |  Corruption in Cricket


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