From Ian Botham to Dilip Ghosh, Kirti Azad’s Ability To Surprise Remains Intact





If Dilip Ghosh ends up with a stunned look on his face wondering what hit him, he can just go back and watch a four-decade old video of Ian Botham, disbelief written all over the contours of his facial lining. Whether on the 22-yard strip at London’s Oval or the corner of a far off political field in the industrial town of Bardhaman-Durgapur, one can’t help but marvel at Kirti Azad’s ability to put heavyweights in their place.

Leading by over 1.37 lakh votes right now, Azad is set to take down one of BJP’s most senior state leaders at a constituency which was anything but familiar to him when he was first declared Trinamool Congress’ candidate.

In that World Cup semi-final at the Oval, Azad’s famous ‘grubber’ — a delivery that remains abysmally low, cleaned up Botham. World’s No. 1 all-rounder at that time, Botham could only look back in frustration at his rattled furniture.

On Tuesday, when the man from Bihar is on the verge of decimating Ghosh in a Bengal township, where there is a sizeable population of non-Bengalis, the 65-year-old’s win could well be termed as one of the biggest victories for Trinamool Congress.

Those who understand Bengal politics could argue that the former BJP state president was forced to come out of his comfort zone and contest from an unfamiliar territory but then, it wasn’t a very familiar zone for Azad either.

Azad had won back-to-back elections for BJP from Darbhanga in Bihar before his open feud with the late Arun Jaitley on the alleged corruption in the administration of Delhi and Districts Cricket Association (DDCA) led to him switching to Congress.

If his close friend Kapil Dev’s presence was a boost during his short but mostly uneventful international career, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and her nephew Abhishek definitely provided his political career a second lease of life.

May be there is less of skill but more of providence but the maverick World Cup winner, a very authoritarian former Delhi Ranji captain, a verbose national selector and a sworn detractor of Jaitley, Azad has always known how to remain a newsmaker.

Son of former Bihar CM, the late Bhagwat Jha Azad, he studied at the famous Modern School at Delhi’s Barakhamba Road and was a sports quota student at the prestigious St Stephens College whom he led with distinction.

Azad has always been a non-conformist. During the finals between the Hindu College and Stephen’s at the latter’s ground, students would flock to watch the muscular batter hit towering sixes with his English willow Gray Nicolls, which was a novelty in those License Raj days.

Azad, historian Ramachandra Guha, ad-man Piyush Pandey were all contemporaries in college cricket, who later careers took off in different directions eventually.

Some of Azad’s critics would always allege in private that whatever cricket he played for India was because of his proximity to Kapil Dev.

While allegations of nepotism is a debatable topic but there is no doubt that Azad was one of the most powerful Delhi skippers of his time who would never shy away from a fight when the team at the opposite end was Mumbai.

Also, he was force to reckon with in domestic cricket and murderer of off-spin bowlers.

Many believe that he was one of the first Indian batters in domestic cricket, who could actually read the ‘doosra’ bowled by off-spinners in early and mid ’80s when even bowlers themselves didn’t know what it was all about.

The late Bishan Singh Bedi doted on him and they remained close till the former breathed his last.

Together, they would often launch missives against the workings of DDCA, often attacking Jaitley directly over issues ranging from team selection to administrative workings.

Azad, especially in Delhi cricket, always polarised opinions.

Some described him as a straight-talking man, for some others he has been an opportunist but one thing is for sure — none could ever ignore him.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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