July 23: Their 14-year marriage is reportedly over, following the former India skipper’s close relationship with badminton champ half his age.
Mohammad Azharuddin and Sangeeta Bijlani’s 14-year-old marriage is reportedly over. If the buzz in Hyderabad (which has now reached Mumbai as well and is fast spreading to the rest of the country) is to be believed, then all is not well between the mian-biwi. According to a highly-placed source, Azhar will be filing for divorce within a week. And a badminton champ half his age is believed to be the reason for the split.
Jwala Gutta (26), World No 7 mixed doubles player, currently married to Arjuna Award-winner badminton champ Chetan Anand, is the one who has caught the fancy of the 47-year-old former India skipper and Congress MP from Moradabad.
He is said to be so besotted with her that he has gifted her a BMW, in which she rides all around Hyderabad -- something that first raised eyebrows, as mixed doubles badminton players are not a well-paid lot.
"Whenever he is in Hyderabad, he is seen in Pullela Gopichand’s academy where Jwala practises and they both leave together. They head to some hotel but I am not sure if they stay together in the same room," said a highly-placed source from the Andhra Pradesh Badminton Association.
"Jwala and her husband are not staying together at the moment and are even practising separately," he added. Azhar was spotted at the Asian Badminton Championship in Delhi recently and the couple have even been watching matches together.
Gopichand refused to get embroiled in the controversy. "I don’t want to comment anything on this," he said, cautiously.
Badminton officials say Jwala was the reason why Azhar was interested in fighting the Badminton Association of India (BAI) elections, and not to "bring professionalism, accountability and transparency in BAI’s working" as he had said. Azhar, however, withdrew his nomination later. With inputs from Amit Singh First shaadi and divorce After an eight-year marriage, Azhar divorced his first wife Naureen after he started seeing Sangeeta. His messy divorce cost him two bungalows in Hyderabad’s Banjara Hills, two BMWs apart from lakhs of rupees. He has two sons from his first wife -- Asaduddin and Abbasuddin. Five years after the divorce, Naureen married a Canada-based real-estate businessman.
Snippets from the dressing room
A NEWSPAPER photographer managed to capture Mohammed Azharuddin and Sangeeta Bijlani at the Cricket Club of India when the Indian team led by Azharuddin trained at the Brabourne Stadium in 1995. Azhar was livid when he saw the photograph in the newspaper the following day. However, a little birdie tells us that he took a liking for the photograph and requested the cameraman to part with a copy.
DURING the Board President’s XI vs New Zealand, the batting stylist annoyed agency reporters, who had to file their copies from the press centre of Rajkot’s Municipal Stadium in 1995, by using the telephone line to talk to his new-found love. When a senior journalist protested, Azharuddin couldn’t understand what all the fuss was all about. Can’t blame him.
For, the then India captain rarely cared about members of the fourth estate. According to some senior pros, he once addressed a media conference while clipping his toe nails. A few years later, at the Brabourne Stadium, he tucked into a snack while the pressmen waited for their bytes.
WHEN Azharuddin was on the threshold of becoming the most capped player in One-Day Internationals (Allan Border held the record for 273 ODIs) during the Mini World Cup in Dhaka, 1998, one of the several people he thanked for supporting him right through was his wife. It did not take long for a Smart Alec of a scribe to ask, "Which wife?" He didn’t get an answer, as Azharuddin made it appear as if he didn’t hear the question.
SANGEETA Bijlani’s presence on the 1997 tour of West Indies was not well received by members of the Indian team. Apparently, wives of other players had to return home after a while, but Bijlani stayed on.
Azhar with his first wife Naureen and kids
Azhar met Sangeeta at a photo shoot where he modelled for an advertisement along with the actress, soon after which he started seeing her in 1994. Azhar was a married man, the shy and reserved sort and Sangeeta was dating Salman Khan then. After a romance that drew a lot of criticism, the two tied the knot in 1996.
The Other Side
When contacted, Jwala neither confirmed nor refuted the rumours. "You can write whatever you want, but it’s neither a yes nor a no," said her manager. Even after she was asked if the rumours were baseless, she remained non-committal.
Azhar, however said, "All these are rumours." Azhar’s mother let it slip that Sangeeta is staying in Mumbai these days.
Chetan Anand, Jwala’s husband said, "I don’t want to comment anything. It is a personal issue. The media has no right to get into personal matters." He then disconnected the phone.
Bijlani did not respond to our messages and calls.