A thrilling century against Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy last month has got Kerala player Mohammed Azharuddeen noticed in domestic cricket circles as he has already captured a place in the priority lists of IPL franchises for the auction scheduled on February 18.
In the Elite E match on January 13, Azharuddeen smashed 137 runs off just 54 balls, including 9 fours and 11 sixes, helping Kerala score an easy win over Mumbai by eight wickets. His century came off just 37 balls. He opened the innings for Kerala and gave the team a quick start by hitting India pacer Dhawal Kulkarni and IPL 2020’s new star Tushar Deshpande over the fence to help Kerala chase 196 with 4.1 overs to spare. It was the third-fastest T20 century by an Indian after Rishabh Pant (32 balls) and Rohit Sharma (35 balls).
This week, in an interview with iemalayalam.com, Azharuddeen said that his knock made him more confident and responsible as a batsman. “Pressure is there even when we play on the paddy fields. It’s always there. But that century (against Mumbai) gave me more confidence. It made me more responsible.
“My coaches asked me to be more careful, that we can’t take it for granted. Then, it would feel like over-confidence. I want to enjoy batting and leading my team to victory. That’s the only thing on my mind,” he said.
A number of records were broken with Azharuddeen’s knock against Mumbai. He is the first batsman from Kerala to score a century in the T20 format. His was the second-fastest ton by a batsman in the Syed Mushtaq Ali trophy and the third joint-fastest T20 century by an Indian batsman. He also helped Kerala register its first domestic win over Mumbai, across all formats.
About his chances of being picked by an IPL team and eventually playing in the tournament, Azharuddeen said, “Any decision, whether it’s positive or negative, is not likely to affect my life and career. I have done my best. The rest is not under my control. It doesn’t matter if I don’t get a chance. My ultimate goal is to give my best for the Kerala team.”
When asked about his dream, he added, “Opening an innings with Virat Kohli.”
Despite the great show with the bat, the right-handed batsman is not fully satisfied with his performance in the series. “I could have done better. Even though, I got a good start in a few innings, I lost my wickets. I could have converted those innings into good scores and it would have helped my team as well,” he said.
A bucket list of Azharuddeen had also gone viral on social media. “IPL, own house, Benz car, 2023 World Cup,” the list of wishes of the 26-year-old goes on.
“During the lockdown, I got more time at home. It was then that my dreams became more clear and I just wrote in a paper. My dreams are long-term,” he said.
Azharuddeen said the presence of seniors like Robin Uthappa and S Sreesanth was always helpful. “Robi bhai and Sree bhai came to support us and gave us tips when we were batting in the field. They always gave us a boost. At the same time, we can learn a lot from them by just observing their play,” he said.
Azhar hails from Thalangara in Kasaragod district and has been playing for his state in the domestic circuit since 2015. In the T20 format, he has scored 404 runs in 19 innings at an average of 23.76 and a strike-rate of 144.80.