Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Friday, March 20, 2009

Cricketers pad up for poll innings

By M H Ahssan

It is easier to face bouncers on the pitch than handle the googlies bowled by political rivals, former international cricketers say. But that seldom stops them from batting for political parties. Those in the fray this election are Chetan Chauhan, Navjot Sidhu, Kirti Azad, Chetan Sharma and Ranjib Biswal. Former India captain Mohammed Azharuddin, too, tried to get a Congress ticket from either Medak or Secunderabad but the result was a duck. But there is a chance he might be fielded from Rajasthan.

Former Test opener Chetan Chauhan, a two-time BJP MP from Amroha, wanted a change of scene. Gavaskar’s most reliable opening partner had finished a dismal fourth in the 2004 elections after successful stints in 1991 and 1998. His vote share too had fallen from 42.54% (1991) to 14.75% (2004). He is not admitting that though.
“I have been living in East Delhi for the past 10 years. That’s why I am contesting from there this time,” he says.

Chauhan feels that politics is more difficult than cricket. “In cricket you face only one ball delivered by one bowler. But in politics, you never know who will bowl a beamer and from where,” he says. Like Chauhan, Azad too wanted a change of constituency. The son of former Bihar chief minister Bhagwat Jha Azad wanted to be the BJP candidate in the new Delhi North-East parliamentary seat. In 1999, he had won from Bihar’s Darbhanga constituency but lost in 2004. Since Delhi’s North-East constituency has a huge percentage of voters from Bihar and UP, Azad felt the situation could work to his advantage. But he has had to settle for the Darbhanga ticket again. “Both politics and cricket are games of glorious uncertainties,” he says. Former India paceman Sharma, who claimed a hattrick during the 1987 ODI World Cup but is remembered more for the heartbreaking six he conceded against Javed Miandad in a Sharjah final, is contesting the Faridabad seat on a BSP ticket.

BJP’s Sidhu hopes to retain his Amritsar seat while Orissa’s Biswal, a former under-19 international, is Congress candidate from Kendrapara. Biswal’s original constituency, Jagatsinghpur, has been declared reserved after delimitation. That apart, Madan Lal, a key member of the 1983 World Cup winning squad like Azad, is in the reckoning for the prestigious Hamirpur seat in Himachal Pradesh. His BJP rival is Anurag Thakur, the son of Himachal CM PK Dhumal. Cricketers and politics go back a long way. Sacked captain Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi joined politics after being replaced by Ajit Wadekar in 1971. Pataudi contested Lok Sabha polls from Gurgaon. His party was the VHP (not Vishwa Hindu Parishad but Vishal Haryana Party). The former India captain lost heavily.

In the book, ‘Indian Cricket: The Vital Phase’, Raju Bharatan tried to explain why. Politician Bansi Lal outfoxed the cricketer with his shrewd Haryanvi rustic logic.

He is said to have told Gurgaon voters: “What good will it do you if Pataudi wins this election. To meet him you’ll have to get into the stadium first. And you know how difficult it is to get into a cricket stadium in the country. Granting you get in, what will he give you. At most, a bat and ball.” Twenty years later, Pataudi contested from Bhopal on a Congress ticket. The result was similar.
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