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Interview

'Inzamam had all the time in the world'

Allan Donald, Anil Kumble, Matthew Hoggard, Chaminda Vaas and Damien Fleming, five bowlers who had plenty of memorable duels with Inzamam over the years, pay tribute to a batsman who never seemed to need to hurry. Interviews by Nagraj Gollapudi

For the better part of two decades Inzamam-ul-Haq has earned the respect of bowlers the world over. Cricinfo asked five men who went head to head with the man for their impressions of him.


Kumble has been among the very few bowlers who has had consistent success against Inzamam © AFP
Anil Kumble
He was one of the top five batsmen I bowled to in international cricket and I was fortunate enough to get him on more than a few occasions. He always had a lot of time, knew when to take the risk and when just to push along. He was very good at planning an innings.
Inzy could hang in there and control the game and guide the Pakistan batting, but at the same time he could occasionally become impatient.
I always felt that he was more vulnerable if he first faced spin when he came in than the fast bowlers, because against fast bowlers he could move his feet easily. I trapped him quite a few times in front of the stumps - not just because of his late foot movement, but also because I tended to bowl quicker since he was a bit suspect in front of the wicket.
If you weren't successful, he could be a challenge. As he proved against India, in his second-last Test here, in Bangalore during the 2005 series, where he just went on and on to pile up 184. My other favourite Inzy innings was the one against Bangladesh at Multan in 2003.
He was not someone who was aggressive in his body language; he was always self-contained. I don't think one could play mental games with him.
Favorite Inzamam shot The back-foot punch.
Allan Donald
Bowling to Inzy was almost like bowling to a brick wall. Everything about him was unfazed, nothing could rattle him - he was so solid. He was very calm of nature, and even as captain you felt he never got angry. The only time I saw him angry was when Pakistan were called off the field at The Oval last year.
As a batsman he was a very, very difficult guy to bowl to. He was not the most elegant batsman ever seen, but he was very effective in his own way - a bit like Steve Waugh; and I'm not comparing him to Steve Waugh, just comparing their natures. Inzi was very resilient and put a very high price on his wicket.
When he was playing really well he had all the time in the world and all the shots to go with it. He played from quite deep in the crease and that gave him more time. The minute you started coming a bit fuller, thinking you might get him through the gate, the timing of his shots was incredible. He had such good balance for a big guy.
Our strategy was to bowl a little bit fuller and make sure that it was on the off stump, and not middle and off, because he was very good working the ball off the stumps. In the first 15-20 balls he didn't really look to get into the ball or at the ball on the front foot, so we concentrated on bowling fuller and finishing on the off stump. Then we would try peppering in the short one from time to time, because the bounce had been his undoing here in South Africa sometimes.
You can't compare Inzy to any of his team-mates, or even former Pakistan batsmen. This guy, to me, was the one batsman who showed a bit more real guts: to get out there, apply himself, get over the hot period and get himself in
Allan Donald
But over a period of time we realised we were wasting our time trying to bounce him early on because he almost wanted us to do that. What made our job difficult was he was very patient, and that was because he was very disciplined: He left a lot of balls and was a good judge of pitches and how to leave balls on the bounce or lack of bounce. He was good at wearing bowlers down. Sometimes it felt as though if anything was going to get him out it was him getting bored and playing a rash shot or running himself out. Mentally you couldn't upset him. It didn't matter what you said. In that respect he is like Jacques Kallis.
You can't compare Inzy to any of his team-mates, or even former Pakistan batsmen. This guy, to me, was the one batsman who showed a bit more real guts: to get out there, apply himself, get over the hot period and get himself in.
He was no doubt a great batsman and he would be in my top five: Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mike Atherton.
Favourite Inzamam shot My favourite Inzy shot was the straight drive. He didn't really look to hit through the line to a ball that was full: he would always hit it down the ground past the bowler, the hallmark of a top-class player.
Damien Fleming
During the 1994 tour of Pakistan, in the game before my Test debut, at Karachi I was the twelfth man and I was asked to put the champagne on ice when the ninth wicket for Pakistan went down. But by the end of it Inzamam and Mushy [Mushtaq Ahmed] put on 60-odd to win the game. Inzamam showed a lot of maturity, a lot of class, putting faith in his partner not to panic even if he was a No. 11. He was an intelligent cricketer.
I did get Inzamam a few times early in his innings. Being a swing bowler I backed myself to get a nick or to trap him lbw early, as he was never a great starter, but once he got going he covered all types of bowling, playing with no obvious weakness. Like all great batsmen, once he got in the zone he didn't throw his wicket away - he went on to get big scores.
For a big man he didn't try and over-hit the ball. And he didn't need to, because he had wonderful timing and immense power.


Hoggard thinks he has his man, at Multan in 2005 © AFP
Yes, he could be quite slow on his bat swing and on getting his front foot down at times, and so a couple of times I hit his pad before the bat came down. But over the years his defences couldn't be breached and the only way out then was to build the pressure and make him run hard between the wickets without giving him any cheap singles or doubles.
I still remember his great hundred against us in Hobart in 1999-00. At one point I was pretty flattened out and out of ideas. So I came round the wicket and bowled a couple of dot-balls and pushed him back. Then I thought I would bowl him the slower one, the offspinner, which used to get a lot of batsmen driving on the up. It came out perfectly but he picked it up, waited for it to land and just smashed it through the covers for four. Normally the weight of the batsman is on the back foot and the loopy one brings them forward, and if they are not to the pitch of the ball it goes in the air. But Inzy adjusted his shot and his timing - and this was during the second innings when it was real difficult. Only great players can do that.
One of my lasting memories of Inzy was during his last trip to Australia [2004-05]. The Australian press asked him what he felt about Glenn McGrath targetting him during the series. Inzy's response was, "Isn't that what bowlers do?" Always made his point in his own way without saying too much.
Favorite Inzamam shot I like batsmen who hook and pull and Inzi was always a good one to watch in that regard.
Chaminda Vaas
It was always a challenge to bowl to Inzamam, one of the greats of international cricket in both forms of the game. It was not difficult to bowl at him as such, but his was never a cheap wicket - he always was among runs. You had to bowl in good areas; the margin of error against him was very, very limited.
As a left-armer my natural delivery to him was the inswinger and that seemed to put him in trouble often, but if it was not pitched properly he would dominate soon. What I mean by good areas is: good line and length, around eight inches up always, and keep hitting particular spots the pitch which would get him.
For him it came naturally: he was very relaxed, just like Mark Waugh and Carl Hooper. Without a doubt he is among my top five batsmen
Chaminda Vaas
Inzamam was as strong in defence as he was in attack. He had good eyes and was a good timer of the ball. He always made many runs on subcontinental wickets against both pace and spin.
I have seen very few cricketers in international cricket who have so much time to play their shots. For him it came naturally: he was very relaxed, just like Mark Waugh and Carl Hooper. Without a doubt he is among my top five batsmen.
Matthew Hoggard
Inzamam is one of the greatest batsmen that has ever lived. And one of his greatest virtues was that he had so much time for his shots. That was because he always hung back; he didn't lunge at the ball and get forward mentally - like all great batsmen in history.
He was very much an accumulator of runs but, having said that, you didn't know what mode he would come out in to bat. He could switch from defence to attack without any trouble. And he always looked to bat for long time.
Part of his success was that he played himself in - just looked to stay in till he got the pace of the wicket and the bounce. He would try and make sure he was still there when the bowlers were in their third or fourth spells, because that's when he scored the majority of his runs.
My strategy to get him was simple. He was susceptible to the lbw early on, with the ball nipping backwards, as he didn't move his feet that much. And he was too good to get easily riled mentally. Having said that, he could surprise you with his aggression on occasions. I remember in my second Test, at Old Trafford, I hit him on the head and the next ball he tried to hit me out of the ground. Thankfully he didn't connect properly.
Favorite Inzamam shot The hook and pull were his best shots - he just had so much time to play them.

Nagraj Gollapudi is assistant editor of Cricinfo Magazine