Former Indian captain Mohammad Azharuddin was the undisputed king among batsmen when it came to style. Kerala's own Mohammed Azharuddeen, who blasted a 37-ball hundred to guide his team to an eight-wicket win against Mumbai in the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy T20 Championship on Wednesday, is also wristy like his senior namesake.
A native of Thalankara in Kasaragod district, the 26-year-old has become an overnight star with the match-winning hundred. The fact that the blistering ton, the first by a Kerala player in T20, came against the domestic heavyweights at their fortress - the iconic Wankhede Stadium - makes it even more remarkable.
Blessed with impeccable power and timing, Azharuddeen had played many spectacular knocks for Kerala in the Ranji Trophy over the last six years, but the 54-ball unbeaten 137 against Mumbai was his first big score in the T20 format.
Born on March 22, 1994, as the eighth child of B K Moidu and Nabeesa, it was his elder brother Kamaruddeen who named his little brother after his favourite cricketer and the then captain of Indian team Azharuddin.
Kamaruddeen wanted his sibling to follow his idol's footsteps, and the young boy did not disappoint him. Azhar showed glimpses of his talent at a very young age, but by that time the senior Azharuddin had retired from international cricket.
He started playing cricket at the TASS Cricket Club in Thalankara and was only 11 when he made it to the U-13 Kasaragod district team. The wicketkeeper-batsman was soon handed the captaincy of the district team.
A consistent performer in various age-groups teams, he was just over 13 when he was picked to lead the Kerala U-15 team. The teenager already had remarkable stats for his age and the Kerala Cricket Association considered him one of their best young players.
Azharuddeen was in Class IX when he joined the KCA's academy at Mutholy in Kottayam district. He studied at the St Ephrem's Higher Secondary School at Mannanam and then the Sacred Heart HHS and the Sacred Heart College, Thevara. During his school and college days, he underwent training at the KCA Academy in Kochi. N Bijumon, who was the chief batting coach at the academy, deserves credit for helping him become such a clean hitter of the cricket ball.
In 2013, Azharuddeen was included in the Kerala U-19 team. He began with a bang by smashing six off the first ball he faced in the match against Tamil Nadu. As Sanju Samson was the first-choice wicketkeeper, he continued to play as a specialist batsman.
After two years, he represented the U-22 state team and soon received his maiden call-up to the senior team. He played his first Ranji match on November 15, 2015, against Goa, which Kerala won by an innings and 83 runs. Ever since, he has been a permanent fixture in the state team.