The Inzamam-ul-Haq story

The Inzamam-ul-Haq story

Post by Jay Mirz » Sun, 04 Jun 2000 04:00:00

The sleeping giant wakes up

   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
   Shahid Khan.

   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
reliable figures
   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
learnt how
   to graft an innings; from Imran, how to bat when my back is against
the wall;
   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
(UBL), when
   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
impressed with
   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 shift
   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
problem was
   to get him to the nets where the Pakistani team practiced under the
   supervision of Imran Khan. I approached Salim Jaffar and Tauseef
Ahmad (who
   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
opening day
   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
abilities. He
   returned after 20 minutes, yelling at all those who had misinformed
him about
   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
top-score of
   25. He was dropped from the fifth, which Pakistan won by 10 wickets
to claim
   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
with a
   century, helping Pakistan avert a defeat. And he has never looked
back since
   then. 59 not out against Australia at Karachi in 1994 that helped
Pakistan win
   the Test by one wicket, a superb century against Australia at Hobart
in 1999,
   an unbeaten 135 against New Zealand in 1994, an excellent 148 at
Lord's in
   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
days," says
   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,
Brian Lara,
   Mark Waugh and Aravinda de Silva. The only thing that upsets me is
that he
   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
feel the
   pressure of playing the World Cup - that too in Australia. It clearly
   how mentally tough he is. He had some problems technique-wise
initially, but
   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,
"When you
   have Inzy on the pitch, anything is possible. On that day (when he
   that match-winning 59), our hopes rested with Inzamam and he
delivered the
   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
end of
   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.
But with
   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.
After all,
   heroes are not born every day.