SHOWBIZ and cricket. In India it almost amounts to one and the same thing. The fervour and passion with which Indians salute their stars from Bombay's Bollywood to Eden Park is unmatched anywhere else in the world. The blaze of publicity and the ever-present media glare is all-consuming. So it was with much relief that two stars from apparently the same constellation arrived in Hong Kong this past week to take a welcome breather. But the fame of Mohammed Azharuddin and his lovely wife Sangeeta Bijlani has travelled far and wide. Even Hong Kong was not a safe refuge. They were mobbed by fans at The Peak while sightseeing, at the Regent Hotel while dining, and at a reception at the residence of their hosts, Lachmi and Papu Butani. Azhar, as he is commonly known, and Sangeeta are used to it. He, the Test captain of a nation mad about cricket, and she, an actress in an industry where the principal players are treated like gods and goddesses, have come to accept the fact that their moment of fame will last more than the ordinary 15 minutes given to mere mortals. 'We are both in similar situations and we can identify with each other's problems. Showbiz and cricket brings the same blaze of publicity. But I'm used to it,' says the beauty from Bombay. Azhar is more restrained. Perhaps it is his natural tendency to take a cautious approach when cornered by the media. For he knows what it is to be put under the microscope in a country where every move he makes, every breath he takes, is watched and heard by millions. It happened when the classy batsman lost the captaincy of India in 1996. It happened when the devout Muslim divorced his first wife to marry the girl of his dreams, Sangeeta, last year. It happens whenever he strides out to the batting crease. Or it happens when he leads his side on to the field. 'In India there is so much attention from the media. The pressure is always on you. When you are performing well, everything is okay, but the moment you don't perform it can get bad. 'They have a job to do. But I feel we try our best. Nobody wants to go out and get out for the sake of getting out and play badly. But sometimes things don't work and I feel the media should give a little bit of leeway. 'I think it is not good for the game. It is not good for anybody. We cannot perform sometimes to the expectations of the public or the media so I think a little bit of time should be given as everyone goes through a bad run or series,' says Azhar. India's most successful captain adds: 'You can't win all the time. It is not humanly possible. You can only try to win.' A batsman with silky strokes, especially on the leg side, Azhar regained the captaincy from Sachin Tendulkar in January this year, 15 months after being deposed. 'It came as a very big surprise to me. I never expected it to happen but at the same time we were going through a very bad spell. In 1996-97 we were not playing well and we did not win a single tournament bar one.' That move by the Indian selectors seems to have reaped double dividends. For Tendulkar has been revived. His smashing run against the Australians recently has seen him win the number-one spot in the prestigious Coopers and Lybrand ratings. 'Sachin played brilliantly. Probably a weight has been lifted off his shoulders. It is like what happened to Ian Botham. When he was captain he did not perform but the moment it was taken away, he became the man of the series in 1981 against Australia and I think eventually they called it the Botham Series. 'Sachin has blossomed in similar fashion. He has played well because I think there is less tension on him. He does not have to worry about bowling changes, fielding changes . . .' All those worries are now squarely on the 35-year-old shoulders of Azhar, who also seems to have found a second wind. Opinion is divided. Some say he has been rejuvenated by the fresh challenge of captaining India again. Others say Sangeeta has given him new impetus. The woman herself denies she had anything to do with his success on the field. 'I'm still learning about the game. I don't know much about cricket, but I try to accompany him whenever I can,' said Sangeeta. A busy schedule - she is currently shooting a 105-episode soap called 'Chandani' for Zee TV - prevents the former model-turned-film star (she has starred in 25 movies) from always joining Azhar on his busy schedule as an international cricketer. 'I go with him when I can,' said When they are apart, a diamond-and-gold pendant, which she wears on a necklace, is a constant reminder of Azhar. 'It was the first thing he gave to me,' says Sangeeta with a smile. Fittingly it is shaped as a bat - a tool which has helped Azhar collect 5,697 Test runs in 91 innings. He has also scored over 7,000 runs in one-dayers, the most by any Indian. While personal milestones are satisfying, Azhar's immediate goal is to win next year's World Cup. 'That would be the icing on the cake for me. I have had two attempts and not been successful. Hopefully I will be lucky third time around.' More fame could be in store in the future. However, for a few fleeting moments in Hong Kong this past week, the Azharuddins were able to relax together - despite the unexpected intrusion by some fans and the media.