A talent nipped in the bud

A fatal bike accident catapulted the 18-year-old from relative obscurity -- despite being Mohammad Azharuddin’s son, not much was known about him outside Hyderabad -- and suddenly, parallels are being drawn with his illustrious father’s dazzling strokeplay.

“I would say he was a better bowler than he was a batsman,” said John Manoj, a former player who has been running the St John’s Coaching Foundation for a long time now. It was at St John’s that young Ayazuddin honed his cricketing skills.

“After he finished his 12th, Azhar was keen that Ayaz play for my club, East Maredpally Cricket Club. He played for us for two years, and he was quite a good talent. He was instrumental in us winning the league title last year, he played a couple of crucial innings.

“Ayaz was a decent cricketer, a good all-rounder in the making. At our camp, we were all expecting him to be a very good bowler. Yes, he has some shots that resemble his dad’s style but he was a good off-spinner at the under-16 level and at the camp, we told him to focus more on his spin bowling, especially given the paucity of spinning reserves in India. He used to bowl quite a lot and I personally feel he was a better bowler than a batsman.”

Both Ayazuddin, a II B Com student at St Mary’s College until last Friday, and his older brother Abbasuddin were at St John’s together. “Abbas used to push him hard, he was the big brother who always looked out for his young sibling,” Manoj went on. “Ayaz was very shy, reserved but always very polite. His best friend was his cousin (Ajmal-ur-Rehman, who was also killed in the bike accident). They used to come together and leave together, they were very close. Everything happened so suddenly, it’s a real tragedy for us, for Hyderabad cricket and for the families of the two boys.”

Manoj said Ayazuddin never threw his weight around. “He was a gem of a person, a down-to-earth guy. He had no airs, and if you didn’t know it, you would never guess he was a celebrity’s son. Both Ayaz and Abbas are very well-mannered, very respectful. Azhar told us very early that we shouldn’t do them any favours and treat them no differently from the others.

“He insisted that their talent that should speak for them. Azhar came up the hard way, he realised very early that nothing comes easy and that you need to keep working hard. He has drilled those lessons into his kids. He never interfered with their cricket, never tried to push for their selection.”

Two years ago, Manoj recalled, former New Zealand all-rounder Gavin Larsen had brought an under-16 team from New Zealand. “Ayaz played one match against them. Gavin and a couple of the other Kiwis who had watched Azhar play were fascinated that in Hyderabad, there was another batsman whose batting style resembled Azhar’s. They had no clue that he was Azhar’s son!” Manoj reminisced. Srinivas, another coach at St John’s, added, “I cannot recall one instance when Ayaz threw a fit, like most rich kids do.

“If only we had the camp on Saturdays and Sundays too (the camp is closed during the weekend), this accident wouldn’t have happened,’’ he lamented. If only… That is the lingering thought here in Hyderabad. If only…

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