According to Historian Ramchandra Guha, the first ever cricketer to join politics was Palwankar Baloo, a Dalit leader who contested for a by-election in Bombay Municipality in 1933-34 and lost to a Parsi doctor Homi F Pavri.
In 1937, the Congress party contested him against Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Baloo gave tough competition to Ambedkar, however he lost by a margin of more than 2,000 votes. The first Indian cricketer-turned-politician post independence was Nawab Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi who contested in 1971. Thus, the first cricketer-turned-politician of India was a Dalit and a Nawab.
Famous Cricketers Who Became Politicians
Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, Regarded as one of India’s greatest cricket captains, the nawab contested two Lok Sabha polls and tasted defeat. Despite the fact that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and cricket World Cup winning team captain Kapil Dev campaigned for him, he eventually lost the poll. Following these defeats, Pataudi chose not to stay put on the sticky wicket of politics and bid adieu.
Kirti Azad, The former all-rounder who was part of the 1983 World Cup-winning squad, represented the BJP and won from Bihar’s Darbhanga constituency thrice. In February 2019, he joined the Congress. Son of former Chief Minister of Bihar Bhagwat Jha Azad, Kirti Azad was an aggressive right-hand batsman and a quickish off-spinner. He was previously an MLA from Delhi’s Gole Market constituency.
Chetan Chauhan, who was Sunil Gavaskar’s opening partner in Tests, has twice been a Member of Parliament from Amroha constituency in Uttar Pradesh. After his cricket career finished in 1981 he moved into politics, joining the Bharatiya Janata Party. He is serving as Minister for Youth and Sports in Uttar Pradesh.
Navjot Singh Sidhu, A minister in Punjab government, started his political career by contesting the Lok Sabha elections in 2004 on a BJP ticket. Sidhu, who featured in 51 Tests and 136 ODIs for India, has donned several hats in his political career. In 2014, the BJP denied him a ticket and gave the seat to the party’s key strategist Arun Jaitley. In 2016, he was given the Rajya Sabha ticket but he resigned.
Mohammad Azharuddin, The stylish Hyderabadi batsman began his political innings in 2009 when he joined Congress. Azhar won the general elections in 2009 from Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh to become an MP. The former India captain was, however, routed in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Moradabad constituency. Azharuddin was an elegant middle-order batsman and led the Indian team in 47 Tests during the 1990s. He has disclosed his intention to contest 2019 elections from Secunderabad parliamentary constituency in Telangana.
Imran Khan is at present the most prominent face of a cricketer-turned-politician. The former Pakistan captain was last year elected the country’s Prime Minister. Imran, who led Pakistan to its only World Cup title in 1992, last July won the most seats in the elections for his Tehreek-e-Insaf party.
Arjuna Ranatunga, Arguably Sri Lanka’s greatest captain-ever, joined politics after retiring and has been a Member of the Parliament of Sri Lanka for Gampaha constituency. In 2015, he was appointed as the Minister of Ports and Shipping having earlier held the post of Sri Lanka’s Deputy Minister for Tourism.
Sanath Jayasuriya, One of the most devastating openers that cricket has seen, was elected as Member of Parliament from his native Matara district for one full term and has served as the Deputy Union Minister of postal services and later as the Deputy Union Minister of Local Government and Rural Development under the president.
Mashrafe Mortaza registered a landslide victory in the 11th general elections in Bangladesh. He became the first active cricketer in Bangladesh to be elected as a lawmaker. Mortaza, an Awami League candidate for Narail-2 constituency, got 2,74,418 votes while his rival Jatiya Oikya Front alliance nominee Fariduzzaman Farhad received 8,006 votes.
Mohammad Kaif, who played 125 ODIs and 13 Tests between 2000 and 2006, joined Congress and contested 2014 Lok Sabha election from Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh. He is regarded as one of the best fielders in the Indian cricket team owing to his great athletic and throwing skills.
Praveen Kumar, who joined the Samajwadi Party ahead of 2017 UP assembly polls, said that he would take two to three years to learn politics and thus has not contested any of the elections.
Vinod Kambli contested the 2009 Maharashtra Assembly election from Vikhroli seat in Mumbai where he managed to garner only 3,861 votes and lost to MNS candidate Mangesh Sangle by a margin of around 50,000 votes.
S Sreesanth contested from the BJP’s ticket in Kerala assembly polls from Thiruvananthapuram seat in 2016 and lost to INC’s VS Sivakumar.
Gautam Gambhir, Former Indian cricketer became the latest cricketer to take the plunge into politics when he joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on March 22, 2019.