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Azharuddin’s words and Younis’s transformation

“He was playing like a joker,” said Mohammad Azharuddin. “I mean, he has been playing for so long, made 31 centuries but was batting like this! I was not happy at all and I told him that.”

Azharuddin was referring to his conversation with Younis Khan ahead of the fourth Test between England and Pakistan at The Oval recently.

Standing outside the crease and getting himself into a tangle while countering the swinging ball, Younis was advised by Azharuddin to stand within the crease, move into better and more balanced positions, and play the moving ball late. Azharuddin’s words worked like magic for Younis. He made a match-winning 218 for Pakistan in the final Test. “The important thing was he was willing to listen and work on the problem,” said Azharuddin.

Although Virat Kohli was a brilliant batsman, Azharuddin felt the India Test captain has to work on his batting against swing. “It’s an area he has to focus on.” He, however, had good words for skipper Kohli. “He leads with aggression. It’s good for the bowlers when the captain goes for wickets.”

Azharuddin had great respect for the knowledge and sporting spirit of the Chepauk crowd — “I made my second Test hundred here” — and said he was delighted to be back in the city. “Before I used to know everything about the city but now I have forgotten some of the roads. The city has changed.” Cricket, he felt, had changed too. “The bowling has become weaker. You do not have many quality bowlers now,” Azharuddin said.

Former pace ace Zaheer Khan said he was “open to offers in different roles,” although he did not quite say if he was ready for the Indian bowling coach job.

Talking about the present-day pacemen, Zaheer said, “Jimmy [Anderson] swings the ball. He is a big threat. Mitchell [Starc] is very good too. He has the ability to pick wickets in bunches.”

On India paceman Mohammed Shami’s return to fitness and wickets in the West Indies, Zaheer said, “It is good to see him back in form. He’s recovered from a bad injury, not played for eight to nine months. I believe a paceman should keep playing cricket in all formats to stay in rhythm.”

The TNPL, Zaheer said, will be a good opportunity for the young cricketers to get noticed. “The players catching the eye may be picked by talent scouts for bigger competitions like the IPL. Talent never goes waste.”

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