Mohammed Azharuddin will contest Telangana polls from Jubilee Hills (File)
Once known for his stylish flicks and sharp catching on the cricket field, Mohammed Azharuddin has entered the electoral fray in Telangana as the Congress candidate from Jubilee Hills, saying he will bat aggressively and field properly to win on this new pitch. A swashbuckling batsman from Hyderabad, Azhar made a mark in the cricketing arena with his inimitable swagger and stylish stroke play.
Like the explosive start he had to his cricketing career with three back-to-back centuries, he also began his political innings with a win from Uttar Pradesh's Moradabad Lok Sabha seat in 2009.
He lost from Rajasthan's Tonk-Sawai Madhopur in 2014 and after waiting in the wings patiently he is now entering the state electoral contest for the first time by seeking to wrest the Jubilee Hills constituency in the Secunderabad Lok Sabha segment from the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS).
In an interview with PTI, the former India cricket captain said he was yearning to contest from his home state and do something for the people of Telangana after being an MP from UP and then unsuccessfully contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Tonk-Sawai Madhopur.
"I was very happy to get the ticket this time from my own state. I must thank my high command - Mallikarjun Kharge ji, Sonia Gandhi ji. Rahul ji, Priyanka ji, and most importantly our PCC chief A Revanth Reddy for giving me this opportunity. Insha Allah (god willing) we will try our best and win the election," said Azhar, who is a veteran of 99 Test matches and 334 One Day Internationals.
The Telangana Pradesh Congress Committee working president said, "Winds of change" are blowing in Telangana in the Congress' favour and "we will definitely prevail".
"It is the right time, we have the right people, we are working very hard and the public also wants the Congress to come to power. Development that has happened is only in some urban areas and not elsewhere, so we will focus there and the six guarantees we have made, we will definitely abide by them and implement them," Azhar told PTI.
Asked about him sticking with the Congress since he got the parliamentary polls ticket from Moradabad in 2009, he said loyalty is very important to him since the beginning.
"I have always felt that whenever someone gives you the opportunity one should be loyal," the 60-year-old said.
Azhar cited the example of how he stuck with the bank that gave him a job even before he broke into the Indian team.
"When I made the three hundreds in the first three matches to set a record I had various opportunities and people were willing to give me any amount of money and jobs but one has to be loyal. When I was nothing, the bank gave me the much needed job. Similarly, the Congress gave me the opportunity and I fought two elections, so you have to be loyal because loyalty is the most important thing " the former India cricket captain said.
"Sometimes things do not go according to how you want them to go but that means it was not meant to be because destiny also plays a very important role," he said.
Azhar said people have seen what the BRS has done and they know that the Congress has done much more for them in the past.
All the development that happened was under Congress rule since Independence, he said.
"So, we will definitely develop Telangana, especially the areas which have been left behind," he said.
Rich people are becoming richer and the poor, poorer so justice has to be done for them, he asserted.
"The people want change and development. Especially in the case of minorities nothing has happened and there is only talk. The backward classes, their development has also not happened," Azhar said.
On the contest he has at hand in Jubilee Hills, the Congress leader said he has the confidence of the people of the constituency as whenever he spoke with them, he got an overwhelming response.
"People talk about it being an upscale area. But there are areas which need development. Local Congress cadre is also working very hard and we have the confidence of the people," he said.
"I want to tell the people about the guarantees of the party and fight on those lines," he said.
Asserting that he wanted to work for his home state, Azhar said he wanted to do something for the people of the state and is really looking forward to the campaigning.
Asked about what inspiration he would draw from cricket in his electoral battle, he said one has to be aggressive in these things and campaign aggressively.
"Once you are out on the field you have to face everything and you can't be docile," he said and added that he has to win the hearts of the people.
"We will do the fielding properly and win on this pitch which is very big, not just 22 yards," Azhar said in a lighter vein.
BRS' Gopinath Maganti is the sitting MLA from Jubilee Hills from where Azhar has been fielded.
The Congress is seeking to replace the BRS government in the state. Voting for 119 assembly seats in Telangana is set to take place on November 30 and results will be declared on December 3.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)