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Why Azhar stakes a claim for a place in the Indian side

If the selectors go by the performance of the players around the Indian domestic circuit, then they cannot ignore the showing of former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin. He has looked fully recovered from the shoulder injury and seems to be fit as a fiddle, losing a lot of weight in the process. After a disastrous World Cup, the Hyderabad captain has let his willow speak during the home season. Very determined, he has regained his silken touch which almost got him a berth in the Indian team for the Carlton & United series in Australia.

While the Indian middle order gave a pathetic display "Down Under" the elegant Azharuddin has been in fine form this season helping Hyderabad to the second spot in the South Zone Ranji Trophy league. His scores this season so far are 200 not out against Goa, 77 against Andhra, 56 against Kerala and 84 and 69 to save the match against Tamil Nadu. His only failure was against Karnataka when he scored just 12 runs. His knock of 64 and his partnership of 120 with Sharath (113) were instrumental in South Zone entering the Deodhar Trophy final.

If one looks at the record books of the past few seasons both in Test matches and one-day internationals, between 1996-99, the Hyderabad player has played 26 Test matches during this time and scored 1704 at an average of over 40 in 40 innings with seven hundreds and 6 fifties. In the limited version of the game, he has scored 3203 in 94 innings at an average of 35 with four hundreds and 24 fifties.

The above record suggests that Azharuddin has been consistent in both forms of cricket and has held a spot for himself. With the South African series about to begin this month end, its time that the selectors make up their mind on the former captain as he was the top run-scorer in the previous series against that them at home in 1996-97. He made 388 runs in the three Test series with an average of 77.60. He scored two hundreds and a fifty and who can forget that innings of 109 at Calcutta when India where in deep trouble at seven for 161? Can one expect some of the players who went to Australia, handling the likes of Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener?

If the selectors decide in not selecting him for the series against South Africa, then they owe an explanation for their action. They have picked him to play the Ranji, Duleep, Deodhar and Wills Trophy matches and the Challenger series, ostensibily for him to prove his worth. Or are they waiting for a reason to say that he failed?

The series will also help the most successful Indian captain of all time to complete a landmark of playing 100 Tests. He needs only two matches to do so.