Pakistan v Zimbabwe, Group D, Jamaica March 21, 2007

So long, Inzi

Like Bob Woolmer, this is not the way Inzamam-ul-Haq should have bid adieu to cricket, or at least ODI cricket, stumbling out of the World Cup disastrously



'All that was good and great about Inzy flashed before us' © AFP

There has already been one goodbye this week. Another today makes it two too many, but life moves on. Like Bob Woolmer, this is not the way Inzamam-ul-Haq should have bid adieu to cricket, or at least ODI cricket, stumbling out of the World Cup disastrously.

In recent months, an essentially amiable, lumbering giant has become a figure not so pleasant. He has been accused of becoming too authoritarian, picking his own teams, stubbornly demanding certain players, not listening to anyone and generally proving how power can change men.

Age and his back have feasted hungrily on his batting and the last calendar year was an indifferent one. Last August, he was the country's poster-boy, defending a nation's pride at the Oval, and yet last weekend his posters were being stomped on and burned, so quickly feelings have changed.

But in one instant, as he skied Tawanda Muwaripa to Sean Williams and began the last ride to the pavilion one last time, emotions switched again. Brisker than usual on departure, the walk stalled as every Zimbabwe player rushed to shake his hand.

And briefly, as life is supposed to flash before your eyes in the instant before you die, as he hurried, teary-eyed, into an emotional guard of honour from his team, all that was good and great about Inzi flashed before us; the yo-yoing weight, the clean-shaven cherubic chubby giving way to the patriarchal beard, the brain ticking over impassively calculating run chases, the bendy flick off his hips over square leg, the hunched, shuffling drives, those violent cuts.

If you squinted hard enough through coloured eyes, you glimpsed the impudence of the 1992 semi-final 60, the grace of the Karachi hundred against India and the scheming behind the Ahmedabad 60. In a week of tears, here came another sly one: once he was up those dressing room stairs, who would bring that calm, that solidity that you sensed in the middle order, even when he was out of form, every time he walked out?

His last knock ended exactly 2.52 runs short of his career average. It also came exactly 15 years to the day since his 37-ball 60 gazumped the Kiwis on the way to Pakistan's 1992 triumph. It appeared mostly to be an innings of release: from the immense pressure he has been so good at handling and from the traumas of the last few days and months. He swung his bat greedily and merrily, as he had all those years ago as an ODI whipper-snapper. It didn't last though that wasn't really the point.

Who can gauge what sort of pressures he has been under just in these last few days? Maybe the announcement of his resignation was mistimed but there are no certainties to how a mind reacts to the worst defeat of an international career followed swiftly by a tragic death. As Kamran Abbasi noted, the decision to resign and retire itself was the right one. It was also a rare one in Pakistan cricket.

So then, so long Inzy. We may see you again in whites come September but the way Pakistan cricket works there is an equal chance we might not. If we don't, thanks for the dry humour at the pressers; the calm; the slip catches; the running and, of course, the batting. Thanks also for the captaincy reign, which at over three years was one of the longest uninterrupted reigns in this country (which amounts to something) and contained enough memorable moments in it. Thanks even for opening all your post-match presentations, shambolic loss or euphoric win aside, with the same, "First of all, thanks to..." They say change is inevitable but in turbulent environments, sameness can be precious.

Don't mind the anger at the Irish loss. In time, I suspect we will come to look over the last eight months and remember instead all that went before for over 16 years.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo