Kaushik Saha
Indian Test Cricketers as Politicians
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

In the history of cricket, there have been a few individuals who have made a successful transition to politics. Sir Frank Worrell, Arjuna Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya and perhaps the most charismatic of them all – Imran Khan have at different points of time , been ministers, started political parties and even tried to be Prime Ministers

In India, the trend is not different. Cricketers have a very short life as a sportsman given the wear and tear involved with playing a competitive sport. By the time they are 40, they are mostly out of the game and have to look for alternative careers to keep themselves busy as well as run their kitchen. Some stay associated with the games as coaches (Anshuman Gaikwad), selectors (Chandu Borde), talent spotters (Dileep Vengsarkar), commentators (Gavaskars), umpires (Venkatraghavan) or enter cricket boards as administrators (Anil Kumble). Some have become successful businessmen (Kapil Dev) or actors (Salil Ankola). However, a few do enter the profession that is loved and loathed in equal measures in India – politics

I am assimilating a team (XI) of test cricketers who have entered politics after retirement from the sport. To keep a balance in the team, I have kept a mixture of batsmen, bowlers and a wicketkeeper, even a coach and administrator. Please the XI consists of players who have played tests as well been involved in party politics either as a candidate (for Parliamentary or Assembly elections, or is an hopeful for the same)


Chetan Chauhan: One of India’s best test opening partnerships of all time was the Gavaskar-Chauhan pair. Chetan Chauhan was the sedate antidote to Gavaskar’s strokemaking. He never scored a test 100, but did enough to ensure India had a good start. He also had a enriching political career, the first internatiomal cricketer who entered Lok Sabha. He won twice on a BJP ticket from Amroha (1991 and 1998)

Navjyot Singh Sidhu: Chauhan’s opening partner will be the man who launched a million Sidhuisms. Called “strokeless wonder” in the early part of his career, he changed his game and became more attacking towards the latter part of his career. Who can forget his brilliant assault on Shane Warne, or his man-of-the-match winning performance vs. Pakistan in the 1996 Worlc Cup semifinal? Known as much for his witty dialogues, as his fiery temper, Sidhu is a 2 time and sitting MP from Amritsar, on a BJP ticket

The two openers are expected to complement each other in style and technique – while Sidhu can be the dasher, Chauhan can blunt out the new ball. Just missing out from this list is India’s greatest test opener Sunil Gavaskar. Gavaskar was once sheriff of Mumbai (then known as Bombay), but never into active poltics

Middle Order:

Mansoor Ali Khan (Nawab of Pataudi): One of the most flamboyant of Indian cricketers – a man who led the Indian team to its first overseas test and test series victory (vs. New Zealand) and was captain in 40 of 46 tests he played. He was an Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year in 1962, and a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1968, and all this with one functioning eye. Nawab of Bhopal and Pataudi until 1971, (when India abolished royal entitlements through the 26th Amendment to the Constitution of India), he was married to noted Bollywood actor Sharmila Tagore. He contested Lok Sabha polls twice, once in 1971, he contested on a “Vishal Haryana Party” ticket from Gurgaon and lost. On another occasion (1991), he contested on a Congress ticket fro, Bhopal and fared better, losing by a lesser margin. He actively campaigned for Congress on some other occasions as well. MAK will be the captain of the team given his record

Sachin Tendulkar: A man who needs no introduction to any cricket lover anywhere in the world. Widely considered to be one of the best to have played the game, he entered the world of politics via a Rajya Sabha seat on a Congress ticket. BCCI big shot Rajeev Shukla, Congress MP and good friend of Sachin facilitated his entry. Though he has not done much as MP, attended sessions rarely and not even spent his MPLAD funds, but his charisma and fan following ensures such questions are brushed under the carpet. And most of his fellow MPs, even from parties who otherwise oppose Congress tooth and nail – are his fans

Indian team in the late 80s which has Prabhakar, Azhar, Sachin and Sidhu in the fray

Mohammad Azharuddin: One of India’s best batsmen, a fairly successful captain (albeit at home) and a brilliant fielder, Azhar’s wristplay was one for the ages. Till he was accused in a match-fixing scandal, he was hailed as a demigod in many parts of India, none as much as Eden Gardens, where banners screamed –”cricket is brotherhood, Azhar is Robin Hood”. But after the accusations, and the BCCI ban, he became an overnight villain and controversies over his affair and marriage with Sangita Bijlani, the untimely death of his son kept him in the news. He won on a Congress ticket from Moradabad, and he did play the minority card, unfortunately. He is planning to contest from Howrah in West Bengal this time against another sportsman (footballer Prasun Banerjee of Trinamool Congress). Though he has still not shaken off the allegations, still, he is the best person to be the vice captain to MAK’s captain, given his huge experience with the job, and a better record than Sachin

Vinod Kambli: Of all the Indian test players who have retired (officially or unofficially) Kambli (54.20) has the highest test average. He once scored back to back 200s in test matches, and was considered to be one of the best young cricketers India ever had along with Sachin Tendulkar. But then Kambli threw it away. Coming from an underprivileged background, he never really had someone to guide him, and for all his talent, he was carried away by success, scored sporadically, and was dropped. The rise of Saurav Ganguly made sure he never came back to the test squad. It’s hard to forget the tearful Kambli after India lost in the semi finals of the 1996 World Cup to Sri Lanka. He joined Lok Bharti Party after retirement and became the vice-president of the party.In the 2009 Vidhan Sabha election, he contested from Vikhroli, Mumbai and lost the electionThough he continues to do social work. In 2011, He supported Anna Hazare’s campaign India against Corruption

Together, the Pataudi, Sachin, Azhar and Kambli led middle order would be one to watch for. The foursome has a combined aggregate of over 26000 test runs and can take on any bowling attack in the world. Just missing out from this list is Ajay Jadeja. His mother in law Jaya Jaitley was a noted politician representing the Samata Party


If one looks at the list of Indian politicians, one sees a politician from Jharkhand – “Dhoni”. Look a bit carefully, that is Narendra Singh Dhoni, elder brother of Mahendra, India’s most successful test captain. There have been a number of wicketkeepers who have such indirect political links. A successful politician, Kiran Kumar Reddy, ex-Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh was a wicketkeeper for Osmania University and played alongside Harsha Bhogle the commentator and Arshad Ayub, the former Indian spinner. However, there is a former Indian wicketkeeper who is nowadays campaigning hard for the Lok Satta Party, and might even get a ticket

MSK Prasad: who had an unremarkable career for India (barring a gutsy 63 against South Africa in a ODI) after Nayan Mongia was dropped in the late 90s. However, there are 2 impressive points on his cricketing CV. One – he kept well in that unfortunate tour of Australia where India lost 0-3, two – his impressive keeping in a ODI series vs. West Indies (which was Saurav Ganguly’s debut ODI series as captain) help India beat a stronger side 2-1


Manoj Prabhakar: Manoj Prabhakar is one of most successful fast bowling allrounders in Indian cricket. In the early 90s Prabhakar formed the opening bowling combination with Kapil Dev till Javagal Srinath came along. He also opened the batting on a few occasions and scored useful runs. Using the slower ball to good effect, he was a threat, especially in ODIs. After retiring from international cricket following a mauling at the hands of Sanath Jayasuriya in the 1996 World Cup, he took to entrepreneurship an along with ex-wife Sandhya and founded Naturence Labs which produces skin care products. He was accused in the match fixing scandal in the late 90s and subsequently banned by BCCI. He came back as coach of Delhi and Rajasthan. In between, he had contested in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections from Delhi on a Congress T ticket

Kirti Azad: Kirti Azad was a offspinner who could bat as well and had an decent first class record. He was part of the World Cup winning team of 1983. After retirement from cricket, he followed in the footsteps of his father, former Bihar Chief Minister Bhagwat Jha Azad and joined politics. He became a MLA from Delhi’s Gole Market constituency and later became an MP from Darbhanga, Bihar in 2004 and 2009, on a BJP ticket. He had once sat on a fast to ban IPL, and is a BJP spokesperson on national media. Kirti Azad (along with Sachin’s part time bowling) is the spinning option in this team

Kirti Azad, Madan Lal and Kapil Dev discuss their 1983 World Cup win with Rajdeep Sardesai (who himself played cricket while in college)

Prabhakar and Kirti Azad can add depth to the team as batsmen, and can bowl medium spells. Just missing out is Irfan Pathan, who once campaigned for Gujarat Elections along with CM Narendra Modi


Yograj Singh: Yograj Singh is more famously known as the father of cricketer Yuvraj Singh. He is also a well known actor in the Punjabi film industry and has delivered some big hits. In recent times, he has done some roles in Bollywood as well, famously playing Milkha Singh’s coach in critically acclaimed Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. However, as a cricketer, he was known to be Kapil Dev’s fast bowling rival at one point of time for North Zone and India teams. He played 1 test for India and was claimed Kapil’s politics behind him getting dropped after that. There are stories of how he rigorously trained Yuvraj to become an international cricketer. In 2009, he contested Haryana State Assembly elections on a INLD ticket from Panchkula and was defeated

Dodda Ganesh: Ganesh came from a humble background and was financially helped by Karnataka and India teammates to buy cricket gear. He played 4 tests in 1996-97, but not one in India. His gentle medium pace didn’t make much of a mark on the international stage, but he played with a high degree of success in domestic cricket. After retirement from cricket, he became interested in politics and joined Janata Dal (S). He currently heads their sports cell and might contest sometime in near future

Yograj and Ganesh are not the best fast bowlers to be part of the team, but since this list is about Indian test cricketers who have had an active career in politics, they make the grade. Expect them to bowl long spells though. Just missing out is Javagal Srinath, one time new bowling partner of Dodda Ganesh. There were strong rumors than Srinath is all set to join BJP in February this year, but he denied them

12th Man:

Mohammad Kaif: Mohammad Kaif was the first Indian cricketer to play in the final match of 3 different age group cricket World Cups. He was in the U-15 team that won the 1996 World Cup under Reetinder Singh Sodhi. Kaif then went on to lead the U-19 team in the 2000 World Cup and aided by some fantastic knocks from Yuvraj Singh, lifted the Cup. Kaif’s most memorable knock in cricket remains the 2002 Natwest Trophy final, where he combined with Yuvraj Singh (again) to help India to a remarkable win. That match is also known for Saurav Ganguly’s chest baring act at Lords’. Kaif’s career went downhill after that, and though he made a few appearances in national colors including the 2003 World Cup where India lost in the finals, and later played in domestic cricket and IPL, he was never the same cricketer again. This time, he has been given a chance to contest in Lok Sabha elections on a Congress ticket from Phulpur, the constituency from which Jawaharlal Nehru won when he became the first Prime Minister of independent India

It totally breaks my heart to have Kaif as a 12th man in the side, given that he is a good batsman, but in the team we have 6 batsmen who can make any Indian team (the compromise lies in the bowling department). And Kaif is a brilliant fielder

There have been talks of several cricketers, past and present joining the election bandwagon at different points of time – some of the biggest names of Indian cricket, and some not so big. The list includes Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Anil Kumble, Laxmi Ratan Shukla etc. On the other hand, there are several politicians who control / have controlled cricket boards in their states at various times – Narendra Modi, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Anurag Thakur (who played 1 Ranji Trophy match under controversial circumstances) and Arun Jaitley come to mind

The team needs a coach, and a manager. The coach can be Madan Lal, who almost contested the 2009 from Hamirpur Parliamentary constituency bye elections in Himachal Pradesh. Madan Lal was chosen to contest the bye elections against Anurag Thakur, but was later not given the go-ahead. Madan Lal, a former India all rounder and part of the 1983 World Cup winning team, was also the coach of the national team in 1996-97 with moderate success. The manager would be NKP Salve, a former Union Minister in Congress Governments, a BCCI President (under whose tenure India won the 1983 World Cup) and the first elected Chairman of the Asian Cricket Council. A club cricketer from Nagpur, he has a domestic trophy named after him dues to his immense contribution to Indian cricket which includes getting the hosting rights for 1987 Cricket World Cup for India and Pakistan

So here is the team: Chetan Chauhan, Navjot Singh Sidhu (openers), Mansoor Ali Khan, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Azharuddin, Vinod Kambli (middle order), MSK Prasad (wicketkeeper), manoj Prabhakar (fast bowling allrounder), Kirti Azad (spinner allrounder), Yograj Singh and Dodda Ganesh (fast bowlers). 12th Man: Mohammad Kaif. Coach: Madan Lal. Administrator: NKP Salve

The team has an excellent batting order, a slightly weak bowling attack, but overall the team looks good to draw, if not win a test match