April 11, 2013

When Inzamam confronted his bully


Inzamam-ul-Haq being restrained by security officials at the Sahara Cup match © ESPNcricinfo Ltd

Despite being one of the greatest batsmen ever, like many large men before him Inzamam-ul-Haq was relegated a comic role. He fulfilled this often, whether falling on his stumps or being run out walking down the wicket following through from a shot.

But behind the Wodehousian facade there was also something quite unique about Inzy. Not the fact that he won so many Tests for his team (over 60% of Inzamam's hundreds were in a match his team won, better than Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar and Kevin Pietersen).

Nor the fact that he had a dancer's quickness on the crease, a languorous quality to his batsmanship that gave him so much time and elegance on the ball. No, there is one incident which in my eyes elevated him to the pantheon of great sportsmen, that which showed his unique class - the time he went after a bully in the crowd.

The year was 1997, the match a Sahara Cup encounter between Pakistan and India, held in Toronto. In the stands stood a troublemaker, one Shiv Kumar Thind.

Thind had been allowed into the stadium with a megaphone. Why he'd been allowed in with this sonic device, which could only ever have been used to stir trouble in a match of this standing, I don't know. But the resultant fracas showed why megaphones are something which should never be allowed near the field of sport again.

So with megaphone in hand Thind watched. He watched and waited for the Pakistanis to take their place in the field and prepared to make himself heard. Although reports of the event differ, Thind apparently thought he would make fun of the portly Inzamam, the man who can't run between wickets, the fatty who can't field. What an easy victim. Abusing him would be like breaking a butterfly on a wheel.

Thind allegedly called Inzamam several things. The gist was that Inzamam was fat, should stand up straight and had a physique comparable to a potato. The fact is, this was bullying in the extreme.

Like any bully, Thind probably thought he would get away with it. After all he was abusing an international player from afar - how could there be any comeback? But there was. This time, the tables were turned on the bully. Because at some point, when he'd heard himself being compared to every form of potato under the sun, when he'd heard his country being abused, his team being insulted, Inzamam's calm shattered.

Now was the season of Inzy's discontent. A whisper went out among the team and suddenly the 12th man appeared at the boundary with a bat in his hand. Another whisper and suddenly Inzamam was posted to the boundary right next to his bully.

An eyewitness account of the day describes the scene: "Next thing we know, Inzamam charges across the field, jumps over the small fence separating the ground from the stands, climbs up through the crowd, and grabs the megaphone and starts thumping the guy."

What must he have been thinking as a maddened cricketer turned his gaze towards him and started to run into the crowd?

The fuse was lit and the dynamite exploded. Thind had no idea this was coming. What must he have been thinking as a maddened cricketer turned his gaze towards him and started to run into the crowd? One can only imagine how his bowels trembled, as one's own might were we to see a rhinoceros shaking its horn at us.

The Guardian quoted an eyewitness: "If not for the spectators and security staff curbing him, he would have broken the head of that guy. The guy with the megaphone was no match for Inzamam and got mauled."

The police intervened and Thind was taken away in disgrace. Madan Lal, India's team manager, took the fabled megaphone and called for peace. Order was restored and the match restarted. Inzamam took a catch but Pakistan lost.

Following the match the reverberations continued. Thind was arrested. But like any bully he cried foul. He cried to everyone who could hear - said he would report Inzamam to the police, would have him banned from cricket, would make sure he never played again.

Fortunately the authorities saw sense and gave Inzy a two-match ban. Legal justice was done. But more important was the Homeric justice done that day. The honour of a man's pride was preserved.

True, Inzamam might not have the preening glamour of an Imran Khan or a Kevin Pietersen, or the "cool" fame of a Viv Richards. True, he might be comical in his running between the wicket, portly and somewhat hapless in his demeanour.

But it's also true to say he had a refined dignity and stateliness which will escape many others. I, for one, like these kind of personalities. It makes them far more interesting than show offs. He certainly didn't suffer bullies kindly.

Anyway, for my part, I would like to offer Inzy an apology from the clan of Thinds wherever they may be. (Though I hasten to add that this particular Thind is/was absolutely no relation to me.)

A quite passionate follower of cricket and writer of articles, Safi Thind is one of the authors of the cricketerdiaries blog

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 13, 2013, 13:59 GMT

    a good article to read about Inzi.

  • Imran on April 13, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    O boy.. what a player. One of my all time favroutes. what a match winner. his excellent career record is very good but still not good enough to justify his talent. he was really up there.. very high.. could have done a lot more.. repect for such a great player.

  • Moe on April 13, 2013, 6:10 GMT

    I remember those days when India and Pakistan would play ODI cricket in Toronto. It would never happen now, India are a different beast now. I think it is absolutely wrong that words should be replied back in physical violence and a star cricketer would have to physically altercate with a person in the field. Inzi (or anyone else) should have just pointed the person out to the ground security and have him removed from the ground and banned him for life from the ground. But, what is most glaring is that the security allowing this to happen and the venue not having a policy to quickly remove disruptive and rowdy individuals from the audience.

  • Bobby on April 13, 2013, 2:05 GMT

    sportsrus: I disagree with your comments. Your argument is flawed. The real diginity ( as author implies) is to stand up to a bully. Cricketers are first and formost human beings, no one has a right to abuse Inzemam based on how he looks and etc. Inzemam like anyone else had a right to stand up to these insults and he did. What I agree with you is that there needs to be a fine balance. An example is Virat Kohli and Gambhir. Both are average players who have taken aggression too far. Gambhir was trying to pick a fight with Afridi. Atleats he should pick someone of his size! Kohli on other hand is always trying to potray so called Young Indian cricketer image. One has to show some passion but at the same time act as a role model. Kohli ended up scoring 13 runs against Junaid Khan and aggression disappered. Inzemam showed patience as he ignored this abusive Thind. When the insults continued, he stood up and showed how to deal with an abusive individual. No, I disagree with OZ Insults too!

  • Bobby on April 13, 2013, 2:01 GMT

    Ruchit Khushu: I quite disagree with your comment. Cricket is a team sport and winning is all what matters. Greatness in sports can only be defined with wins and losses. Do you really think that all time greats in cricket would have been great if their teams did not win matches. This article is about Inzemam Ul Haq who won 60% of matches. His 17 centuries out of 25 won matches for Pakistan. The argument that Pakistan had a strong bowling attack is to some extent true but India equally had Kumble, Srinath and Parsad on home made Indian wickets so surely Tendulya could have win some matches. An example could have been how he failed to win against Pak in Madras. He failed in world cup 2003, 2007, 2011 when mattered. The man is a record gatherer and money collector! Inzemam Ul Haq is a fine example of a humble sportsman. He is currently building a cancer hospital in Multan. Inzemam Had such a nice witty sense of humour too.Ganguly recently said Inzy was one of nicest sportsmen he met!

  • Haroon on April 13, 2013, 0:18 GMT

    @sportsrus; your analogy is flawed. Sledging is done by players to players. Specttors are there to watch the spectacle and appreciate it. Not to be an active part of on field discussion/sledging. As someone else pointed out, Zidane had to endure one comment, Inzi had to endure hours of public abuse, with the authorities taking no action. Do you think he should have just taken the abuse and thanked that bully at the end of the game? What Inzi did do (perhaps unwittingly) was ensure a megaphone has not entered a cricket stand since.

  • Dummy4 on April 12, 2013, 21:29 GMT

    Hi Safi, thanks for the countless memories you revived. To complete the story: the 12th man Mohammed Hussain brought the bat out during a drinks break, which was when Inzy's anger boiled over. Just one small detail 'though: Shiv Kumar Thind was himself quite a big guy. Unlike what that eyewitness reported, that chap could have landed a pretty nasty blow or two himself. Its fortunate that no one was injured in that fracas.

  • Dummy4 on April 12, 2013, 17:55 GMT

    inzamam was the real match winner player than lara tendulkar inzamam was king of cricket