Ranji Trophy 2023-24: Azharuddeen reaping benefits of patience and shot selection with Kerala

When Mohammed Azharuddeen was dropped from the Kerala team after a string of poor performances in the 2022-23 season, he wasn’t surprised. He had set high expectations after scoring a 54-ball 137 against Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy in the previous season.

“People expected me to score a century every time I came to bat. It started playing on my mind and I put myself under intense pressure. I tried too hard and nothing worked for me,” said Mohammed Azharuddeen who made a strong comeback into the Kerala Ranji Trophy team after four years.

“I lost form and confidence and I wasn’t surprised when I was dropped from the Kerala team.’’

Azharuddeen made 85 and 50 not out against Chhattisgarh at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium in his comeback match, earning praise from his team-mates and the team management who sent him an SOS to join the team in Raipur.

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“Honestly, the call-up was unexpected. Kerala already had three wicketkeepers and I never thought I would be selected let alone play. I was told after the warm-up that I would be playing,’’ he said.

“I was a bit nervous when I came in to bat after we lost Sanju Samson early on the second morning. The wicket was challenging. The bowlers were fresh and there was some help for them. Sachin Baby, who was my partner, helped me overcome the initial nervousness. When I started middling the ball, I felt confident,’’ he said.

Azharuddeen played a few sparkling shots of yore during his knock of 85. But he showed maturity and farmed the strike when he had only the tail-enders as company.

Even when he was batting with the tail, Azharuddeen neither scored at a frenetic pace nor did he play any slapdash shots.

“When I was out of the team, I had worked on my shot selection with my coach Bijumon. I don’t try to hit each and every ball. I am more patient now and willing to wait a little longer for the loose balls. It is helping me,’’ he said.

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