Sunday, June 16, 2024

Mohd Azharuddin: Holding his own at the HCA crease

Mohammad Azharuddin, as a player, did his bat do the talking. Now as an administrator, heading the Hyderabad Cricket Association (HCA), he expects the Supreme Court to separate truth from lies. 

Azhar seems to have ruffled feathers of the old coterie of former Test cricketers Shivlal Yadav and Arshad Ayub who held an outsized influence in the running of the game in HCA till the former Indian captain refused to play the ball, so to speak. 

So messy are the charges and counter-charges that the Supreme Court has now stepped in and appointed a one-man committee to oversee the election process of the cricket body. 

Azhar, till the apex court decides the matter, has stayed put as the president of the HCA and what’s more has been able to pull in a couple of international matches for the city,  much to the delight of the cricket-crazy metropolis. 

“If the accounts had been fudged (he has been accused of corruption), do you think the cricket board would’ve approved our association to host international matches,” asks Azhar in his inimitable style of minimalist speaking. 

Azhar says there is an elephant in the room in that “people” have cornered 8-9 clubs as their personal property which helps them in casting votes and winning elections in the state’s cricket body. 

“There are 10 members in HCA who hold more than seven clubs each—converting membership into a money-making machine and grabbing power,” conveys Azhar. 

“This is not acceptable. Everyone is buying and selling clubs, manipulating votes,” says Azhar “I would rather have such club-owners to have one and not multiple votes in elections.”

One Purushottam Agrawal, for instance, allegedly owns as many as 17 clubs. His son Himalay Agarwal played for several years without much to show. His nephew, Tanmay Agarwal is the captain of Hyderabad Ranji team. 

It’s easy to decipher how this all works out: The maximum votes you could manage, more power you have in the cricket set-up, more are your powers to appoint, say, a selection committee who would do your bidding. 

Telangana, in all, has 33 districts and 14 municipal corporations. Yet in the present set up, 10 districts of Telangana have 10 votes while the Hyderabad city on its own has 206 votes! There is little wonder the fate of elections is sealed even before the votes are cast. 

The whispers in cricket circles is that the old coterie brought in Azhar once their terms were over in the hope that the former Indian captain would be no more than a rubber stamp in their hands. But this is not how things have proceeded. 

In a bid for this mess to be cleaned up, Azhar voiced the need for an Ombudsman to be appointed who could clean the dirty pond of HCA. This stoked the anxiety of his rivals who tried to stall such a move by filing cases against Azhar. 

Still a Supervisory Committee was appointed to resolve the issues. It went on to publish a report which has highlighted the irregularities in memberships. The 21 clubs which the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation had in 1989, all have been converted into private clubs. Shockingly, the HCA has no membership register. The courts called the master register of HCA a fraud in 2002—yet the functioning has remained the same. 

Azhar’s angst is apparent when he says that no one knows today where a player is coming from, what are his credentials. The player is identified with the influence of the coaching academy he belongs to—and not his talent. 

No wonder, the Anti-Corruption Bureau had arrested three ex-officials of the HCA on corruption charges in 2021. It referred to alleged irregularities and misappropriation of funds. There is every likelihood that the tax authorities would be on the prowl too to work out the source of the accused persons’ lavish lifestyle of luxirious cars, foreign holidays, investments etc.

Cricket lovers sure would like this mess to be settled quickly which is besmirching the names of illustrious cricketers Hyderabad has given to Indian and world cricket such as Ghulam Ahmed, ML Jaisimha, Abbas Ali Baig, Syed Abid Ali etc yet no one bigger than Azhar himself. 

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