“Azhar from 1985 to 1990 would have been a brilliant field player even now”
Former Indian team manager R Sridhar believes Mohammad Azharuddin would have been a brilliant outfield even in modern times, whether he stood up close or in the outfield. Sridhar played with Azharuddin for Hyderabad. The former Indian captain was considered the best field player for the Indian team during his playing years.
As a defensive coach, Sridhar worked with Ravindra Jadeja, widely recognized as the best defensive player of the current Indian squad by far. Asked to choose the best defensive player among Jadeja and Azhar, the 51-year-old said PTI:
“It’s hard to judge through different eras and on terrain judged by different standards. In the 1980s, when Ajju bhai (Azharuddin’s nickname in Indian cricket) made its debut, there was no culture of fitness in Indian cricket. It only started in the late 90s and Ajju bhai stood out because of his athleticism and because he had good hands, a good throw. The benchmark was probably different.
Sridhar added of the two Indian cricket ground icons:
“Jadeja is someone who is nice to watch even when chasing a ball to the limit. He is cut over the rest in world cricket. It was the same with Azhar in his day. Azhar from 1985 to 1990 would have been a brilliant outfield player even now, whether it be slips, closings or lightning in the outfield.
Azhar remained nimble and athletic even during the end of his international career, achieving brilliant catches and landings.
“When you are sure it helps you become a better sliding fielder” – R Sridhar
Sliding is a key aspect of cricket, especially in the Test format. While India briefly struggled to find good slip sensors after the exits of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman, under Sridhar players like Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma have become proficient outfielders.
When asked to share his take on the slip, Sridhar said:
“With practice comes confidence and also the knowledge of this position which brings consistency. Obviously, being a certainty helps (smile). When you are a certainty on the team, it helps you become a better defensive player. That’s why we had Pujara, then Virat, then Rohit, who is a great defensive player. The right person standing in the right place brings consistency. It’s part of the planning and preparation.
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Sridhar’s memorable stint with the Indian team came to an end after the conclusion of the 2021 T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
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