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October 7, 2007

Inzamam: Pakistan's tragic hero

Kamran Abbasi
Inzamam-ul-Haq leaves The Oval at the end of the first day of the ICC hearing, The Oval, September 27, 2006
 © Getty Images
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In a curious twist of fate, as Inzamam announced his retirement, Darrell Hair was contemplating a return to umpiring international cricket. Just over a year ago, the career-ending boot was on the other's foot. Not that Inzamam wishes to dwell too long on his obstinate nemesis having diligently ignored a summons from an English court. Instead, Inzamam will wish for an exit that befits his stature as a giant of Pakistan cricket.

Comparing yourself with Imran Khan has become something of an occupational hazard for Pakistan cricketers, but I can say without fear of being struck by Shoaib Akhtar that Inzamam desired to match, perhaps surpass, his old master. This last year was meant to be the crowning glory of the way of Inzamam, cricket and religion united in a World Cup triumph. As we all know, Inzamam delivered the exact opposite of his ambitions and had to cope with the terrible death of his coach in the process. Little wonder Pakistan's most impenetrable cricketer has taken the sensible decision to slide away with a final farewell in Lahore.

Too many great Pakistan cricketers have retired without due honour and it is a welcome move by the PCB to afford Inzamam this moment of glory. He certainly deserves it. This is not a time to linger on Inzamam's failings--there will be plenty of opportunity for unemotional critique--for this is a time to consider the genius of Inzamam and hope to glimpse it one last time on the international stage.

The task will not be easy. South Africa are strong and confident. Inzamam and his middle-order deputy Mohammad Yousuf are formidable but under prepared. Pakistan's bowling plan has carried an unfortunate spin-heavy look about it, an approach that misunderstands Pakistan's strengths. In addition, those modern blights of an unsettled opening attack and an unsettling wicket-keeper remain to curse every step of Pakistan's reinvention.

Yet with Inzamam comes hope. His stupendous calm has rescued Pakistan incessantly, even when he has returned from the shadows. And memories of those last stands come rushing to mind. A final-wicket win against Australia in the last decade, another against Bangladesh in this. A valiant knock in South Africa this last winter. Every one of those innings, and many more, with Inzamam fighting against the odds, applying his mind to rescuing a lost cause, a disaster created by his fellow batsmen.

There can be few batsmen who have carried a batting line-up so consistently. For years it has seemed--and approached something close to the truth--that without Inzamam there is no Pakistan innings of substance. Only in the last 18 months has Yousuf raised himself to share his captain's burden.

Throughout all this, Inzamam has remained utterly compelling as a cricketer. Grand heroics combined with inglorious failure. A prized wicket from start to end, oblivious to pressure, situation, pomp or circumstance. Thrilling strokeplay and enthralling running. Unmoving yet unmissable. Fabulous but flabbergasting. Inzamam has won our hearts and gripped our souls.

Over the last year Inzamam has become something of a tragic hero, suffocated by the weight of his country's and his own expectations. What would he or we give for the levity of 1992? But our fates are seldom shaped for a never ending crescendo. Fortune brings happiness and just as easily desolation. Inzamam will have the dusty swirl of Multan as a companion to reflect on a magnificent career that could have been even more glorious.

But for the next five days, all Pakistan fans, and I'm sure many others, will be urging this implacable batting maestro to conjure another great exhibition of subtlety and strength. Inzamam-ul Haq, the taciturn man who revolutionised Pakistan cricket, first with his batting in a World Cup and then with his faith-based captaincy, is bidding goodbye.

I expect a cut and a pull, a forward prod, a clubbing drive. I expect a stroked beard, a trot between overs. I expect a trudge to the crease, a return that is an eternity. I expect a hand raised in farewell, a gush of tears. I expect a guard of honour, a final Bismillah in Pakistan's green. I expect a moment of sadness but also relief. And, for once, Pakistan should not expect and just allow Inzamam to breathe.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Posted by tahir iqbal on (December 23, 2007, 6:57 GMT)

Inzy was the great player of pakistan,but we didn,t cear him,we didn,t give actuall respect him.I think without this man our team is uncomeleate.We need another INZY for win next worldcup

Posted by Mangesh on (October 14, 2007, 17:23 GMT)

I remember seeing Inzy first at WC 92. His tour de force in the semis and finals ensured that he burst onto the international cricket scene. To a spectator, Inzy's batting was lazy, graceful, energetic, forceful, delicate, fiesty and all other agreeable adjectives to describe a style that was so uniquely his own. I remember his inning at Karachi 2004 against India where almost single handedly he chased down a mammoth target. It is beyond my brief as an Indian, who is not intimately connected with the going-ons of Pakistani cricket, to comment on Inzy's captaincy and the impact it had on Pakistan cricket at large. Suffice it is to say that as a batsman it was sheer pleasure to watch him. International cricket is poorer without him.

Walk out with your head held high Inzy. History and posterity have reserved a prominent place for you. Good on ya mate, you will be missed.

Posted by Muhammad Asif on (October 12, 2007, 15:18 GMT)

What I have felt on this blog is that when people have nothing to say about cricket, they divert their "Akhroat" (brain) to hit in one or the other way below the belt to the rest of the bloggers. Why you don't join that kina forum where the people would undress you in the same way as you will undress them.

Posted by saddness on (October 12, 2007, 14:36 GMT)

miandad 8032 and inzi 8030.

no question miandad was a better batsman, but inzi will always be the second best in my books!

Posted by khansahab(A.A.Khan) on (October 12, 2007, 14:05 GMT)

Javed Bhai,

I think you missed the news of Lahoris abusing South Africans. You stated your disapproval of Indian Gujrati crowd. Do you have anything to say for this Pakistani crowd?

About your remarks on India’s secularism- firstly Indians just like Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are always subjected to racism whenever they tour Australia. The remarks against Symonds were mostly made in retaliation. Secondly, Symonds has West Indian roots and as such is not like other Aussies. He is a special case and although that does not justify racism, I wonder how Pakistanis speak of him? Pakistanis abused Laxmipathy Balaji when he toured Pakistan- forget Symonds who is not even South Asian. India which features 13% Muslim population, hundreds of different languages and cultures living together happily (with only minor, almost negligible exceptions) compared to Pakistan where religious and regional discrimination is perceived by the majority to be the right thing to do. Plus, India’s Muslim cricketers do not have to change their names in order to seek acceptance within the team. A few days ago I saw on the Indian news that the entire Indian team was invited to a “dawat” at Irfan Pathan’s residence, a family of mosque-managers. In Pakistan you have a federal department of “Inter-provincial harmony” whereas India does not have an equivalent. The truth is that you can’t win the argument that Pakistan is a more stable and fair country than India. In the same way you just cannot win the argument that Inzamam is a greater player than Tendulkar.

I have just seen Inzi get out and read Cricinfo’s commentary. He wanted to break the record in style which only led to his dismissal. In my opinion it was Allah’s will what happened because of Inzi’s mala fide intentions to play in this last match. I personally do not care who the highest run scorer for Pakistan is but one should not play to seek personal records and glory. So Inzamam plays for the country and fights until the last ball to win matches for Pakistan? What was the need to come forward and get out in such a stupid fashion when his team depended on him? So much for Inzamam’s pressure handling skills! Now you and Wasim Saqib will say, “Come on it was his last innings and he was very nervous”. Nervousness is fine but at the end of the day he just could not handle the pressure.

You amaze me totally. You continue to ridicule Tendulkar’s supporters. He top scored against the best bowling attack in the world. What about Inzi’s running between the wickets and the times his fielding has let Pakistan down enormously in innumerable matches? Ganguly is a poor runner anyway and has been involved in many run outs, not just with Sachin.

Cricket is not only about scoring fast. I think you have mistaken the current India Australia ODI series as a “Twenty20” tournament. As far as strike rates go Inzi’s strike rate is much below Tendulkar’s. Look at the overall strike rates of the two players. For God’s sake Javed Bhai, abandon this nonsense and think logically and rationally. Sometimes in a pressure situation you have to take the initiative and slacken the scoring rate. If Tendulkar would have played in his naturally aggressive style there would have been a chance of him being dismissed on 25, which would have let you to criticise him even more. Since you and people like Wasim Saqib feel deep hostility for Indians (I don’t think the purpose of their creation is to destroy Pakistan or Islam) no matter what Indians do, you will always interpret it negatively and feel jealous of them. So if Tendulkar plays riskily and gets out cheaply against the best bowling attack in the world, you will criticise him. If he plays defensively to stabilise the team’s pathetic situation, you will still criticise him. Forget that, even if he would have destroyed Australia’s bowling (as he has done on countless occasions) you would have said that he is a flat track bully. Since he is no God you can’t expect him to score a century with an 80+ strike rate in every innings. Also I don’t understand why so many “ifs and buts” come into play when Inzamam is compared with Tendulkar. So Inzamam is a better player “under pressure”, a better player “when playing pacers”, a better player in “those matches that Pakistan won”. What kind of nonsense is that? If you want to look beyond statistics at least provide cogent reasons for why one player is better than the other. I don’t understand the problem with you or other people defending Inzamam. When you want you can bring out statistics to say for instance that Afridi is a better player than Malik or Asim Kamal. But when statistics go against you (probably every form of batting statistics in the context of Inzi and Sachin) you start talking about “ifs and buts”. Let me compare Inzamam’s performance with Sachin, Dravid and Lara on more bowler-friendly pitches:

Inzamam averages 31 in Australia, 43 in England, 60 in NZ and 32 in South Africa Tendulkar averages 54 in Australia, 62 in England, 42 in NZ and 40 in SA Dravid averages 57 in Aus, 65 in ENG, 65 in NZ, 34 in SA Lara averages 42 in AUS, 49 in ENG, 37 in NZ and 47 in SA

So who is the flat track bully amongst these batsmen?

You talk about blind men and fools. You actually think Afridi can be a permanent fixture in a Test squad. That is the height of foolishness and blindness. Javed Bhai in your response please confirm that someone impersonating as you wrote that post. You were talking about the last paragraph of my previous post. After reading your last para of the abovementioned post I actually started laughing.

Again let me enjoy the moment while I can. The way you see it, Tendulkar’s supporters are blind fools whereas you think Afridi deserves a place in the Test side???????

Finally let me clarify that Inzamam has been a great player and one of the best batsman Pakistan has produced. But it is folly to compare him with the batting greats around the world because even the best Pakistani batsman (Miandad) cannot compare with them.

Jolly good stuff!

P.s- Tendulkar is not amongst my favourite players (I don’t care what others say- people will always come out with rubbish like, “Tendulkar is your hero”) but I have respect for him. I have already said before that I don’t “like” watching Indians or Tendulkar play well and I don’t like them winning. However, what I do not understand is why most Pakistanis can’t be broad minded and admit he is a greater player than Inzi or Miandad. I personally prefer watching Dravid bat more since he works hard to build his innings and his shots are very exquisite. Ironically the reason why I like Dravid is because Tendulkar is so good- I like to see Dravid working hard and building his innings whereas it is often all too easy for Tendulkar.

Posted by Awas on (October 12, 2007, 13:06 GMT)

Well, our one and only Inzi tried to surpass Miandad’s landmark but it wasn’t in his fate. To play a shot like that so early in his innings was madness. How many times has he got out like this against the likes of Warne and Company? He never learns not even in his last test. I was hoping when he came out to bat, it would be nice to see flashes of his brilliant stroke making for one last time but it was never to be. Borrowing Javed A Khan’s phrase.......what a pupoo he is!

The team showed some mettle in their last innings and Pakistan managed a face saving draw. It’s a shame they lost a short series with poor planning playing with two fast bowlers only. South Africa were deserved winners as they won most sessions in both tests. In a short series it’s always difficult to get a real contest. It’s a shame most teams never want to play in Pakistan for more than 2-3 tests. You can’t really blame them with the image that our country has. If it wasn’t for fool proof security, no team would bother coming here.

Posted by Nadeem on (October 12, 2007, 12:51 GMT)

PCB sholuld arrange serise against Bangladesh and give Inzi chance to bat at number 4 to break the record of Javed Miandad. Why Bangladesh? Remember Inzi has a best batting reords against Bangladesh (ave is 80 ). His lowest average is against Austrlia and SA respectively. we should bye our hero in the proper way. This is unfair with Inzi to arrange serise against SA.

Nadeem

Posted by Awas on (October 12, 2007, 12:30 GMT)

Eid Mubarak to the regular contributors to this thread, Kamran Abbasi and to all other bloggers (and to all the Muslims wherever they live……can I dare say that or will I get in trouble? ;-)

Thank you khansahab(A.A.Khan) for your warm wishes.

Posted by Hemant on (October 12, 2007, 12:13 GMT)

Wow! What an analysis of India-Australia ODI played at “Vadora” (?) by that man from Canada! And I, in my naivety, thought we were 33 for 4 because of some superb bowling by the Aussies. I will take 47 runs scored for “selfish reasons” or “personal glory”, any time and every time, over 14 and 3 runs scored for “the team” (strike rate of 150 notwithstanding). How I wish he had stuck to giving his “expert” comments on Pak-SA Test match! First time in my life I am hoping that Pakistan draw this match just to prove the “Pontificating” Khan from Canada that he is suffering from “foot in the mouth” syndrome (or is it the keyboard that appears to be stuck in that orifice?). Though, personally it is quite distasteful to me to point out mistakes committed by others, I cannot help but remark that “screwed” and “screwed up” have different nuances or “stalkers” and “streakers” are not the same or in cricket you hit the ball “to all corners” and not “in all corners”, provided, of course, a cricket field had corners, in the first place. May be, in Canada they have rectangular and not oval cricket grounds or may be in that land before scoring a run the batsman declares if it is to be added to the team’s total or credited in his personal account. I have a feeling that the double whammy dealt by Indians in T20 World Cup has that man a trifle unhinged. Yaaaay…..News has just trickled in, Pak has managed to draw the match, Jose

Posted by Hassan Abbas on (October 12, 2007, 12:02 GMT)

He threw it away, Inzi you gr8 man. Somehow, I knew he would throw it away, he did that when he was on 329 just 5 runs short of Hanif Mohammed's record. I don't know if he did it intentionally but I had hunch he will throw away his wicket. Maybe, he has done it to place a alsp on the faces of those stupid people who were naive enough to say that Inzi was playing this test to break Miandad's record. What a gr8 tribute to him in the post match presentation. We should all wish him all the best and try to forget the last 18 months of his carrier and try our hardest to remember his merry days when we all had the feeling of security whenever Pakistan batted, because we knew we have Inzi in batting order and more often than not he would save the day for Pakistan. Goodbye Inzi and Good Luck.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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