Inzamam-ul-Haq October 12, 2007

Dazzling, delicate; a reassuring presence

Inzamam-ul-Haq may not have kept it all together all the time; he couldn't. But he was there through all of it, the highs, the lows, the thick, the thin: a reassurance

'Against pace, on his day, he was the equal of any and the same reflexes made him probably the best slip Pakistan has had' © Getty Images

This is my Inzamam moment. At Mohali in 2005, Pakistan's top order had imploded tragic-comically against an imposing deficit. Ten for 3 in the fifth and heavy defeat read the scoreboard when Inzamam walked out. If his mood has ever been dark at the crease, it was here.

Lakshmipathy Balaji bowled the innings' sixth over; Inzamam struck three boundaries off the first three balls, none of them deserving their fate. The last I will remember till I remember nothing else: from the back, the contours of his love handles visible, he gently hunched forward. As the left heel landed, bat met ball, a forward push, no more, but mid-off never had a chance. Inzamam's 86 that day was unusually hurried, and though men below him saved the Test, without Inzamam they had nothing.

Others will remember other shots, other days: a World Cup semi-final six, the last-ball poke past point in Ahmedabad, the triple, a Karachi hundred against India, the Multan escape. But they all speak only one truth, that when Pakistan absolutely needed him, he pulled through. Not always, because he was needed most days and he wasn't one for the nine-to-five life. But much more often than not, he did, and that is precious.

The environment, the personality, didn't exist for him to become a glam lone ranger like Lara. Javed Miandad, Salim Malik, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan all helped ease the burden, not always equally. Neither was Inzamam as driven, as ruthless as Tendulkar, Kallis or Ponting. A louder media might have helped, but that hunger would've done so more. Against pace, on his day, he was the equal of any, and the same reflexes made him probably the best slip Pakistan has had.

A touch distasteful, maybe, to recall what he wasn't - because what he was was special enough - but in a time of such batting excess, it is important to situate him. The first time his average reached 50 was in his 92nd Test. Only from his 100th, marked with a century and win, did he sustain it. Tragedy is, it fell below the milestone in his final Test.

Alongside Javed Miandad he is the greatest Pakistani batsman and undoubtedly one of the best, most compelling of modern batsmen

Aamer Sohail, never one to call a spade by any other name, got to the core of the batsman Inzamam: a great player, a rare blend of force and delicacy, yes, but could he have done even more? Ten hundreds in 378 ODIs says maybe, as do ordinary records against South Africa and Australia, the best bowling attacks of his time.

Two of his finest came against the best: an unbeaten fifty against Australia to chase Pakistan's highest Test target, and a 92 the equal of any century at Port Elizabeth. Seventeen match-winning hundreds out of 25, among the best rates ever, also settles many debates. Batting so far down the ODI order hurt his conversion-rate, but in a stiff chase, the heat on, Inzamam was the sharpest tack, capable of innings chiselled from ice.

This is all to nitpick, of course, especially as Pakistan has fewer batting heroes than it should. Much more convenient to say that, alongside Javed Miandad, he is the greatest Pakistani batsman and undoubtedly one of the best, most compelling of modern batsmen.

Captaincy brought out the human in Inzamam, despite his reluctance for the post. He was a caricature before: aloo, overweight, loves a nap, (and his food even more), comedy runner, loses runs when he loses pounds, hits fans. He probably didn't mind it, because nobody minds goodwill, sympathy and endearment the world over.

His dry, sharp wit, already known to team-mates, emerged when he had to address press conferences. He was also honest: asked to assess an under-utilised bowler's performance once, he replied, "If he had performed I could've told you."

The Bangalore win, on the last afternoon, to level the series, was the making of Inzamam as leader. The allsorts attack he used then would today be good, honest Twenty20 material. Yet somehow he tricked Mohammad Sami, Arshad Khan, Shahid Afridi and Danish Kaneria into believing they could dismiss the most frightening batsmen in the world. And they did. On the field Inzamam was never more alert, more harassed, more proactive and under greater strain.

A reassuring presence © Getty Images

That sparked a 15-month period in which Pakistan prospered under Inzamam and Bob Woolmer. Suddenly Pakistan calmed down, came together. With the bat Inzamam touched his peak; five hundreds in 11 Tests at over 80, as Pakistan beat England, India and Sri Lanka.

But subsequently decay set in. Inzamam's calm became inertia, he drifted from Woolmer; religion, glue one year, became distraction the next. That most human of all maxims, that power corrupts, afflicted him. As Pakistan stumbled out of the World Cup in an ugly daze, Inzamam was famously accused of being a dictator, haughty and a maulvi (preacher).

In truth, he did things this last year which he shouldn't be remembered by, notably a cranky, emotional, accusatory press conference. His last dismissal was strange, but in a career that long, a blemish or two (an uneasy, indirect entanglement in match-fixing was another) is human.

With Inzamam departs the last of 1992, when Pakistan cricket was a different world. Not that it was stable before, but that world has since come undone. Inzamam didn't keep it all together; he couldn't for no one person could, but he was there through all of it, the highs, the lows, the thick, the thin: a reassurance. In that alone, there is greatness.

Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sohail on October 14, 2007, 17:11 GMT

    without a doubt inzy was one of pakistan's greatest batsmen it's just a shame he finished the way he did he deserved a better ending, inzy will be missed by cricket fans accross the world, he played a huge role in winning the world cup for pakistan in 1992....... good luck inzy we love you

  • Daniel on October 14, 2007, 12:20 GMT

    Inzi What a lad a true legend whom we will all surely miss. He made such a difference to the world cricketing scene sure he had other top players in his team but his presence made all the difference. Ille never forget some of Inzis experiences the Rhodes run out in '92 the inings of a life time at PE the way he led his nation and the road to the '99 finals. With the end of Inzi comes the end of an era.A match vs Pakistan was never over till you saw the end of Inzi. He truly impacted my playing career a player whom Ive truly tried to model myself on both as a person and a player yes the overweight factor as well. Well truly miss you Inzi we wish you all the bet for youre future.

  • yushay on October 14, 2007, 11:11 GMT

    inzi was really one of the best same class as lara and viv richards tendulkar no where comes close to inzi presure absorbing capability he was a real pressure playes tendulkar always throws his wicket when pressure builds bt inzi rarely did that if ony1 of u hav ony doubt then chek the stats inzi is just behind viv richards and together with steve waugh in match winners list where tendulkar is nowhere near them..

  • Cricinfouser on October 14, 2007, 2:48 GMT

    Great Cricketer, great player. Never will seen one like that again. The Tendulkar's Lara's dont even come close. This guy has won pakistan world cups, overseas test matches and real tough run chases. His best innings was undoubtdly 60 at eden park in 1992 and 92 at port elizabeth, last year. I think only thing missing in his life would be a great match winning innings against India. That distinction was very much there with Javed Miandad.

    but great player and what a cricketer ...inzy....good luck...

  • Sanjeev on October 14, 2007, 1:09 GMT

    Inzi whatever you say was the amongst his country's cricket guys. Matchless, Ruthless on his day. What he has done for Paki cricket no other guy has done it. The most important is the way he has done it. No media, No advertisment, Nothing for his own personal name or fame. All he did for his country. We need to salute this man. We all wish him good luck for future and pray for him.

    I hated him wh

  • khurram saleem on October 13, 2007, 20:24 GMT

    hi i want to say this that inzamam is a good player and this is good time for him to retire from cricket pakistan alwayas thank full to him

  • Shaheer A. on October 13, 2007, 20:02 GMT

    Despite being a hardcore Indian I have been equally hardcore fan of selected Pakistani cricketers. Inzimam has been one player that doesnt need mine or anyones endorsement to claim the place he deserves. I would always remember him as a player who can be looked at whenever situation demands his role. As Ravi Shastri used to call him 'big man' he always proved his subname, a fantastic stroke player, a humble defender, a dull-looking but vigil slip fielder, a quiet commander but what not. Inzimam has been one player who can never be replaced and I believe he deserved much better sign off, not a forced one. As history proves, PCB has had a series of confrontations and ill-policies for which players like Inzimam had to pay but in times to follow, a vacuum created by his absence would always be remembered particularly at challenging times.

  • ABBAS on October 13, 2007, 18:21 GMT

    Abbas Shahid Baqir Webmaster Inzamam ul Haq Offical site So Strange! I think Inzamam was forced by PCB to take Retirement from Test Cricket , He is 100% fit & says He wants to play more Test cricket from Pakistan as he told many different channels. He take this step by Crying and Broken Heart. Hero's and Legent like him never be forget. Best of Luck and Prayers for him for Indian Cricket Legaue & County Cricket and His future life. Hero's Like him never born again. He will be alive always in Pakistan Cricket History as a Super Star.

  • Adeel on October 13, 2007, 17:56 GMT

    Inzamam....have i ever, in my entire life, watched a Pakistan match without inzi? NO ...never.....he has been there since.....forever! He is the Achilles of Pakistan...never much loyal to those above him but he loved his teammates like brothers....never thought of anything but the team and still had to save more matches single handedly than anyone! Few weaknesses...defiant of all another age of men....they will probably say it was a such man existed....we who have seen him know better!

  • Muddasar on October 13, 2007, 16:37 GMT

    INZMAM, INZI, UL-HAQ, ALOO, whatever you call him but somthing will always speaks out when we recall this legend is his devoted , un-selfish service for his country. If i can recall, i cant find anyone in Pakistan's cricketing history who did so much for TEAM PAKISTAN without thinking about his personal benefits. Yes, Imrarn and javaid were the greatest but they had the hunger for power. Yes, Akram was a legend but he had other dodgy stuff too!! but INZI, he never wanted captaincy, it was tied in his neck but didnt he do a good job with winning more than 2/3 of the matches.

    Yes, we got Yusuf and Yunus but we will always miss the giant figure of INZI...i realy truly wished he played another couple of years...

    His name might not be written with LARA's and TENDULKAR's but no doubt he is the most under rated batsman of modern era of cricket.

    Thanks INZI for bringing us so much joy... SALUTE to U!

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