'When I was playing, the BCCI used to appoint the coach.'
'That was not the captain's prerogative, but now things have changed.'
Rediff.com's Harish Kotian listens to Azhar on Sreesanth, Kumble's exit, Ashwin's game and politics.
Mohammad Azharuddin hopes Shanthakumar Sreesanth is given a chance to make a comeback in Indian cricket.
The Kerala high court passed an order on Monday, August 7, asking the Board of Control for Cricket in India to lift the life ban on the former Indian fast bowler.
"If the court order has come, then they (the BCCI) have to follow it. He has lost four years, but Sreesanth will have to bring his fitness up to the required standards and he will have to put in good performances," Azhar said.
"According to me, Sreesanth was one of the finest fast bowlers, but I think he was not handled properly," Azhar, who captained India in 47 Tests, felt.
"If he was handled better, he would have turned out to be a good fast bowler. Very few bowlers could land the ball on the seam as he did, so he was very good," Azhar added.
"The BCCI will have to take a positive decision (on Sreesanth) if the court has given an order," the stylish right hander said in Mumbai on Wednesday, August 9, at the launch of Azhar, the Captain, a 3D mobile game.
Just like Sreesanth, Azhar was banned for life by the BCCI for alleged involvement in the match-fixing scam in 2000 before he emerged successful after a long legal battle.
The Andhra high court in its judgment five years ago absolved Azhar of all charges, but the BCCI refused to lift the life ban imposed on him.
Last September, the BCCI in a surprise gesture invited Azhar for the Indian team's 500th Test in Kanpur.
Along with former Test captains Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Azhar was present at Eden Park, Kanpur, a ground where he hit the third of his consecutive Test centuries in his debut series against England in 1964-1985.
Azhar wrote to the BCCI recently asking for his dues to be cleared including pension and the one time ex-gratia payment which has been held back since 2000 following the ban.
The issue came up for discussion during the meeting between the Committee of Administrators and BCCI officials in New Delhi on Wednesday.
"My expectations are positive because I never think negative," Azhar said.
"The letter that I sent the Board it has been put on the agenda of the meeting so that means they are serious about it. I am hoping this case is resolved at the earliest and we move ahead," Azhar added.
"I never had a problem with the BCCI. Obviously when I got the ban I had to defend myself. Other than that, there is nothing against the Board," Azhar, who played 99 Tests, said.
Azhar revealed he was unhappy that Anil Kumble had to step down as India's coach despite delivering good results in the year that he was in charge of the Indian team.
"I feel very sad for him," Azhar said about the leg-spinner who made his Test debut under Azhar's captaincy.
"It is sad that something like this happened to Anil. Knowing Anil, I don't think he is that type of person. Maybe he thought it is better to be away from (controversy) and losing your self-respect. I think he took the right decision," Azhar felt.
The BCCI, the former Indian captain said, should have the final say in picking the coach and not the skipper.
"I always feel the BCCI should appoint the coach because otherwise it becomes difficult. You can't pick and choose. When I was playing, the BCCI used to appoint the coach. That was not the captain's prerogative, but now things have changed," he added, alluding to the role Captain Virat Kohli is reported to have played in Kumble's exit.
It is natural for the captain and coach to have differences of opinion, Azhar pointed out, but this must be sorted out in the dressing room.
"You do have ups and downs with the coach because you won't agree with the coach or he won't agree with you everytime. It has to be the right balance," Azhar said.
"You have to work in tandem. You have to convince nicely, you have to talk and if it doesn't work out, then it's fine. It should not be made into an ego issue because you are doing it for the betterment of the team," he said.
Azhar believes that England off-spinner Moeen Ali's success in the Test series against South Africa could serve as a template for India's premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin on how to bowl in seamer-friendly conditions in England and Australia.
"When you try too much in bowling," Azhar said, "the result is different. You have to bowl a good line and length. If you try too many things, it doesn't work," Azhar said, speaking from the experience of handling spinners in the teams he captained.
"On a wicket which is not giving you assistance, if you don't bowl well, it is very difficult and you leak a lot of runs," he added.
"You have to bowl a good line and length. Sometimes you get wickets, sometimes you don't. You can't get tailor made turning wickets everytime, so you have to learn bowling on flat wickets," Azhar advised the Indian off-spinner.
"I always feel you have to adapt to conditions, and the adaptability has to be quick," Azhar said. "Sometimes when you adapt, the tour is halfway through."
Azhar was prevented from entering cricket administration after his nomination for the post of Hyderabad Cricket Association president was rejected in January.
He is not giving up and says he will try to contest in the future as he believes Hyderabad cricket is in a bad state.
"In Hyderabad, cricket has suffered in the last few years. The situation is very bad. Some good deserving guys are not getting chances," Azhar, who played for Hyderabad in domestic cricket, said.
"Hyderabad cricket is suffering at the moment. It pains me a lot and I trying to see that we have a good system in place. The money is coming in, but you have to ensure that it reaches the players and it goes into the development of the game and not for miscellaneous things," he added.
Azhar also declared that he will continue his political career with the Congress party.
The former Lok Sabha MP from Moradabad expressed delight at Congress leader Ahmed Patel's narrow victory in the Rajya Sabha election from Gujarat on Tuesday, August 8.
"It was a very good win for Ahmed Patel. It was a very tough election. I don't think we have ever seen such a tough election for a Rajya Sabha seat," Azhar said.
"I am happy Ahmed Sir has emerged victorious. Irrespective of whether he won by a small margin. it is a big boost for the Congress."