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banner Tuesday, 5 December, 2000, 13:42 GMT
Azharuddin's laid-back talent
Azharuddin in action during the last World Cup
Azharuddin in action during the last World Cup
Former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin has been banned from cricket for life after being found guilty of match-fixing. BBC Sport Online looks at his career

Mohammad Azharuddin was considered one of the greatest players in Indian history.

He made a sensational international debut, coming into the side in the Third Test against England in 1984-5 and scoring 110.

He followed that up with tons in the Fourth and Fifth Tests, becoming the first player in history to score centuries in his first three Tests.

Born in Hyderabad on 8 February 1963, Azhar is a man true to his roots. Hyderabad is the most laid-back of Indian cities - and his personality reflects that.

Criticisms
Azhar plays a glancing shot
Azhar plays a glancing shot

Indeed one of the criticisms of his captaincy (he had two spells in charge, from 1990-6 and 1998-9) was that he was too quiet and relaxed to be a good leader.

While his form on the pitch unquestionably puts his up there in the pantheon of cricketing greats - 6215 runs from 99 Tests at an average of 45.03, with 22 centuries - Azharuddin was under constant pressure while captain.

Despite the fact that the team he led in the early 1990s was a poor one, and that he ended up with a more successful record than either Sunil Gavaskar or Kapil Dev, the media were seldom on his side.

In one-day cricket he became the first man in history to play 300 internationals, but the shorter game often proved his nemesis.

Crashed out

In the 1992 World Cup India failed to make it past the league stage, and four years later crashed out in the semi-finals against Sri Lanka in Calcutta.

Azharuddin's decision to field that day, despite being fore-warned that the wearing Eden Gardens wicket would favour the side batting first, cost him the captaincy.

Azhar in Test match action
Azhar in Test match action
Sachin Tendulkar took over and in 1997 Azhar was dropped from the Indian squad for the first time, missing out on the Independence Cup, after a poor tour of the West Indies.

''That was the lowest point of my career,'' he later said. ''I had served my country for so long and to be omitted from the celebrations of India's 50 years of independence hurt badly.''

Burden

He fought back to regain his place in the team and was made skipper once again in 1998 after the selectors decided that the burden of captaincy was affecting Sachin Tendulkar's batting, but after a disastrous World Cup last year he was again given the boot.

Azharuddin was first linked to the current cricket crisis by the testimony of Hansie Cronje. The disgraced former South African captain told the King Commission that it was Azharuddin who introduced him to MK Gupta, the Indian bookmaker whose testimony brought Cronje down, in an Indian hotel in 1996.

Azhar is a religious man who friends say is without ambition. But other reports paint him as a voracious consumer who loves expensive English suits and has more watches than Imelda Marcos had shoes.

When the allegations first surfaced, he was dropped from the Indian squad.

He will never play cricket again.

Instead of being remembered as a fine batsman, Azharuddin will be known for tainting the gentleman's game.

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