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August 9, 2006
Imran Khan, the former Pakistan captain, has criticised Inzamam-ul-Haq's decision to bat down the order, despite suffering a chest injury, in the second innings in Pakistan's series loss to England at Headingley. Inzamam was forced to bat at No.7 due to the amount of time he spent off the field on the fourth day - did not take the field for the first hour and did not come back out after lunch - but Imran would have none of it and slammed him for failing to inspire.
In his column for The Nation, Imran was amazed at Pakistan's "lack of spine" and felt that Inzamam should have braved the setback and led from the front. "Inzamam-ul-Haq should have known that he would not be able to go up the order on the crucial last day and so should have made every effort to spend time in the field on day four to be eligible to bat in his regular position," he said. "When a captain leads from the front and plays through injuries, it inspires his charges to brave challenges and adversity."
Imran, who in the past has called for a shift up the order for Inzamam, did not stop there. "Unfortunately Inzamam prefers to play down the order which at times has been successful yet it is technically a wrong strategy because when the chips are down, the best batsman has to go up the order to avert a crisis. It is far more difficult to bat once there is a crisis," he continued. "With the openers' record rather poor in England so far, not much was expected from them. Bred on slow and low-bounce Pakistan wickets, they were never equipped to have the technique for English wickets where the ball moves off the track. But it was the unfortunate run out of Mohammad Yousuf that effectively put paid to any meaningful Pakistani resistance."
Imran said that Pakistan could take solace from the fantastic displays from Yousuf and Younis Khan, who added a record-breaking 363 for the third wicket in the first innings. "Yousuf is one of the best touch players in international cricket. With his sound temperament and a desire to score big, he has looked consistently the best stroke player on either side," he said. "Younis has by far the best defensive technique amongst our batsmen, which is why he has could be rated as one of the best one-down batsmen to have padded up for Pakistan. He is fearless and looks completely unruffled when the going gets tough [and] has shown that he can play spin and pace with complete confidence."
Like Bob Woolmer, Imran cautioned the move to usher in Shoaib Akhtar for the final Test beginning on August 17 at The Oval. "There is a lot of talk about Shoaib Akhtar's comeback, though it is clear that [Mohammad] Asif would not be able make it. One thing should be remembered: whatever Shoaib's attributes, no matter how talented he is, he cannot go into a Test match with so little match fitness," he said. "He will have to bowl at least 30 overs in the warm-up game against the West Indies 'A' before he should even be considered for induction into the eleven."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Stats highlights from the fourth ODI between India and West Indies in Dharamsala