The Inzamam-ul-Haq story - from the time he was
picked out of nowhere, to the present day when he is
a nightmare for bowlers around the world, writes
Inzamam-ul-Haq is not a megastar like Sachin
Tendulkar. Neither is he as charismatic and flamboyant
as Brian Lara. But with a Test average of 45.71 and a
One-day average of 39.04 the 'Multan Giant' is almost
at par with the two greatest batsmen of our era.
The burly 30-year-old is the backbone of a brittle
Pakistan middle-order, which no longer boasts of legendary and
like Javed Miandad and Salim Malik. Vulnerability has made the
batting a one-man show of late. The last onslaught came against the
Indies at Georgetown, Guyana where Inzamam stroked a century to lift
Pakistan from 39 for five to a first innings total of 288.
Unlike most of his colleagues and predecessors, who were once branded
track bullies' by Imran Khan, Inzamam has scored more runs outside
than at the home track. Seven of his 10 centuries have come in alien
conditions. Humble and soft-spoken, he graciously accepts the role
Imran Khan and Salim Malik played in his transformation as a
"I am very fortunate to have played with these maestros. They were
perfectionists and great teachers. What I have learnt from them is
and still help me out in crunch situations," he says. "From Javed, I
to graft an innings; from Imran, how to bat when my back is against
and Salim taught me to execute shots and find the gaps," he adds,
how he burst into the international scene at the age of 20 with
innings in the 1992 World Cup semi-final and final in Australia.
INITIAL DAYS: There are many cricketers - including Imran - who claim
have discovered Inzamam. But he was first spotted by Ishaq Patel, a
51-year-old low profile man associated with United Bank Limited
it was the most formidable team in the Pakistan domestic circuit. "If
thinks he found Inzamam, I have no problems," says Patel adding "the
line is Pakistan got a great batsman and the player knows who spotted
When pressed, he agrees to talk about Inzamam's early days, when he
still struggling and was accused of being the blue-eyed-boy of
officials. "I was
with the bank's team in Lahore in 1988. We were staying at National
During one of the training sessions, I happened to see a national
match being played at the Gaddafi Stadium. I was particularly
a youngster who was stroking the ball with immense power. I called
Ahmad (the wrist spinner) and inquired about him. Mushtaq said he was
Inzamam. It was then, I called Inzamam, inquired about his background
asked him if he was interested in joining the United Bank. He
agreed," Patel reveals.
"I told him if wanted to make it to the national team, he would have
to Karachi. Inzamam came with me to Karachi and stayed in my house
three years. Inzamam became part of my family. I supervised his
sessions and got him registered in one of the leading clubs - Mian
Professional Cricket Club. Inzamam sparkled with vitality but the
to get him to the nets where the Pakistani team practiced under the
supervision of Imran Khan. I approached Salim Jaffar and Tauseef
were members of UBL team then) and they convinced Imran to invite
to a camp in 1991. In the meantime, the detractors continued to feed
against Inzamam," Patel says.
"Inzamam batted with admirable confidence and authority on the
of the camp. Imran was impressed. He took three new balls - gave one
to Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and kept one with him. The trio
Inzamam with every delivery they had up their sleeves. Later, Imran
Inzamam separately to a fielding session and checked his fieldng
returned after 20 minutes, yelling at all those who had misinformed
Inzamam," Patel recalls with great pride.
FALL AND RESURGENCE: After a memorable performance in the 1992 World
Cup, Inzamam had a horrendous debut series in England against the
team, the same summer. He played in four Tests ending with a
25. He was dropped from the fifth, which Pakistan won by 10 wickets
the series 2-1. His replacement, Shoaib Mohammad, scored a fifty. But
back in the third Test against the West Indies in Antigua in 1997-98
century, helping Pakistan avert a defeat. And he has never looked
then. 59 not out against Australia at Karachi in 1994 that helped
the Test by one wicket, a superb century against Australia at Hobart
an unbeaten 135 against New Zealand in 1994, an excellent 148 at
1996, a magnificent century against Sri Lanka in the Asian Test
final at Dhaka are some of his best innings.
"He remains the finest young talent I have seen during my playing
former captain Imran Khan. "I liked him because he was not scared of
any bowler or playing his strokes. But the best part is his abililty
to hook and
cut the ball, which is an additional advantage for a batsman on hard,
pitches of Australia. I consider him at par with Sachin Tendulkar,
Mark Waugh and Aravinda de Silva. The only thing that upsets me is
hasn't truly justified his talent. He is a far better player than
what the records
suggest," Imran says.
Former captain Intikhab Alam, who was the manager of the 1992 World
winning side says, "I was impressed with Inzamam because he didn't
pressure of playing the World Cup - that too in Australia. It clearly
how mentally tough he is. He had some problems technique-wise
it wasn't a big problem. He overcame it quickly and is now one of the
sound batsmen in the world."
Salim Malik, captain in the 1994 Test series against Australia says,
have Inzy on the pitch, anything is possible. On that day (when he
that match-winning 59), our hopes rested with Inzamam and he
goods in spite of the intense pressure. The greatest thing about him
is that he
believes in himself."
Haroon Rasheed, manager of the United Bank and the then Pakistan team
says, "I have seen him grow in stature. A few years ago, he was not
professional or mature as he is now. He was adventurous then because
had players like Imran, Javed, Salim and others to cover up. Now, he
his responsibility and does his job to perfection. I think the Board
did the right
thing to appoint him as the vice-captain."
Alam believes Inzamam burst on the global scene when he scored that
century at Lord's. "I think that was the turning point. When you
score at the
Mecca of cricket, you automatically become someone from anyone."
TELL TAIL: Still, the pundits of the game criticize Inzamam's casual
and over-sized body. He is considered as the worst runner between the
wickets. "I agree that statistics prove that I am the worst runner,"
cannot but agree. "But I am not the only one making the wrong calls
Unfortunately, the scoreboard doesn't show who is guilty, and at the
the day, I have to shoulder the blame," he says with a smile and a
Inzamam would like to continue playing for Pakistan for a long time.
him, you never know. Already his knees, which serve as shock
have been affected, and now even his heels are in trouble. He has to
care of his fitness. Pakistan hopes he stays around for a while.
heroes are not born every day.