CHURUMURI POLL: A pardon for Mr Azharuddin?

A classic cliche in Indian cinema is the criminal who tries to gain legitimacy by standing for an election and getting elected. Something quite like that but not the same thing is afoot with the former India captain and middle-order batsman Mohammed Azharuddin.

Consigned to the dustbin of cricketing memory by the matchfixing scandal, the gentle, softspoken Hyderabadi was magically thrust on the people of Moradabad by the Congress party, who not only flocked to his election meetings in droves but elected him with a thumping majority.

With the suffix “MP” now after Azhar’s name, a delegation of Congress leaders led by former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijay Singh who has the ear of Rahul Gandhi, and including BCCI functionary and Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajiv Shukla, have petitioned BCCI president Sharad Pawar to lift the ban on Azhar.

“We want the lifetime ban to go from the man who brought laurels to the country with his skills. There were many players in the match-fixing case but they are all free of the ban. Why should the one on Azhar continue?” Singh is quoted as saying.

Since Azharuddin is too old to make a comeback, the lift-ban plea, according to reports, is designed to remove the taint on the “middle-order miyan” in the Congress’ bid to package him into a “Muslim mascot” in Uttar Pradesh, where the party has big plans.

Question: Should the ban be lifted? Was the ban too harsh to start with, especially with Azhar requiring just one Test to complete 100 in a career? Can politics be used to overturn a cricketing ban? If any crime is pardonable with the passage of time, is anything worth the time?