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Mohammed Azharuddin to Cheteshwar Pujara: Play county cricket

Mohd Azharuddin at the CCI dressing room on Saturday. Pic/Subodh Mayure
Mohd Azharuddin at the CCI dressing room on Saturday. Pic/Subodh Mayure

Former India skipper Mohammed Azharuddin advised India Test No. 3 Cheteshwar Pujara and others who are not playing in the Indian Premier League (IPL) to play county cricket and get accustomed to English conditions.

"I would like some of the players who are not playing in the IPL to go and play county cricket and get the experience of playing on different type of wickets. At this time of the year, the ball moves a lot there. It will be good experience and exposure for Pujara and some others which will stand them in good stead when they go to England or play in conditions where the ball tends to move and bounce," said Azhar, who played for Derbyshire in the early 1990s.

Reacting to all the noise around Team India skipper Virat Kohli's aggression, Azhar agreed to what Sourav Ganguly had to say on the issue.

"Maybe Dada was right that his aggression was coming in the way of his batting. But, that's how he plays and we have to respect that," he said.

However, Azhar felt that the ICC should have handled the Kohli-Steven Smith saga in a more mature way instead of letting it drift and go out of hand as it did in the recently concluded India-Australia series.

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Nuwan Kulasekara leads Sri Lanka to series draw

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Mohammed Azharuddin, Yajurvindra rekindle Raj Singh Dungarpur memories

Mohd Azharuddin and Yajurvindra Singh chat in between a photo frame of Raj Singh Dungarpur at CCI on Saturday. PIC/Bipin Kokate
Mohd Azharuddin and Yajurvindra Singh chat in between a photo frame of Raj Singh Dungarpur at CCI on Saturday. PIC/Bipin Kokate

Former India Test skipper Mohammed Azharuddin recalled how Raj Singh Dungarpur taught him the importance of working hard to earn something. Azhar, who was in the city to play for Cricket Club of India (CCI) in the Raj Singh Dungarpur Cup and attend a lecture in Raj Singh's memory, revealed on Saturday how the former Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and CCI president inspired him to perform against Pakistan to help him earn a CCI membership.

"I had requested Rajbhai for a membership. However, he refused to give it to me, saying, 'you have to earn it.' But he also assured me that if I played an outstanding innings in the following day's charity match against Pakistan in 1987 here and earned the man-of-the-match award, he would grant me membership. When I returned to the pavilion, Rajbhai was standing with my CCI membership certificate on the boundary," Azharuddin, who scored 52 against Bombay Gymkhana to help his side win by eight wickets on Saturday, told mid-day.

Former India player Yajurvindra Singh, who delivered the inaugural Raj Singh Memorial Spirit of Cricket Lecture later in the evening.

Yajurvindra, who took a record five catches in an innings against Tony Greig's MCC team at Bangalore in 1976-77, went on to total seven for the match. However, 'Raj uncle', his mentor expected a better performance from him.

"Instead of patting me on the back, he questioned why I dropped the eighth catch (of the match)." Yajurvindra, who played four Tests for India between 1976-77 to 1979-80, was also a member of Srinivas Venkataraghavan's Indian World Cup squad in 1979. Sunny (Yajurvindra's nickname) revealed that it was Raj Singh who delivered the news of his World Cup selection at CCI. The former all-rounder surprised his audience when he said, that though Vinoo Mankad and Kapil are known to be India's best all-round cricketers, for him, Raj Singh was the best all-rounder. "He was the best Indian all-rounder as he was a first-class cricketer, a capable administrator, selector and manager," said Yajurvindra.

Steven Smith back to his favourite ground in Pune

Steven Smith in Pune on Saturday. Pic/PTI
Steven Smith in Pune on Saturday. Pic/PTI

Pune: The last time Steven Smith played at the Maharashtra Cricket Association (MCA) Stadium in Pune, he scored one of the best Test hundreds on a rank turner. Last year, he scored Rising Pune Supergiant's (RPS) only century in IPL, which also happens to be his only T20 century till date. No wonder then that the franchisee's newly-appointed captain is looking forward to begin another chapter at one of his most happy hunting ground.

"It was great, the last time I played here. I got a hundred, we won the Test, so yes, I have some happy memories. Also, I got some runs in IPL last year. I am looking forward to play here (in Pune) again," Smith said at a promotional event on Saturday.

Smith, who replaced MS Dhoni at the helm, is looking to use the former India skipper's suggestions to take the team forward.

"He has been a great player for a long time. He has a lot of experience. I would be cashing in on whatever he has to say to help me along the way," the Australian captain said.

Dhoni is not the only guy that Smith can turn to should he need any advice in a crunch situation. The team has South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis in its ranks and Ajinkya Rahane as well.

Smith's biggest challenge, however, is going to be his ability to stay mentally and physically fit following an intense Test series in India. His response to that challenge could prove to be a decisive factor to RPS's fortunes.

Virender Sehwag goofs up on Twitter

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