Inzamam ul Haq has been a symbol of strength and subtlety in the world of cricket for the last 16 years. Power isn’t a surprise, but the inspiring touch is remarkable for a man of the massiveness that he possesses. His long career saw him in the middle of a number of things — he was an integral part of the squad led by Imran Khan who won the World Cup in 1992, he was the one who took his side off the field in protest at charges of ball tampering made by umpires Billy Doctrove and Darrell Hair.
They refused to come out at first, then delayed the start before eventually forfeiting the Test, the first time in the history of the game, which later on led to Big Inzi being termed as the most controversial figure in International Cricket for about a week. He was summoned by the ICC tribunal as a witness in the Darrel Hair case for racial discrimination, but could not make it to London as he was busy playing his last Test match for his country.
Having played 120 Tests and 378 One-Day Internationals for Pakistan, Inzi piled 20,569 runs and was arguably the best slips fielder Pakistan has ever produced. He was provided a perfect platform from the Pakistan Cricket Board at Lahore when he walked to bat for the very last time in an International Test match and could have walked off after steering Pakistan to a much needed victory in the second Test match at Lahore. But Inzamam danced down to a Paul Harris delivery that moved just a little bit, as it always does, and deceived him completely for Mark Boucher to complete the stumping.
He was a hero for Pakistan at numerous occasions, in the Semi-final of the 1992 World Cup in Australia, a number of times in Sharjah, also at foreign tours and who can forget the Multan Test against Bangladesh in which he single-handedly won the game for his country.
Born on March 3, 1970 in Multan, Inzamam-ul-Haq was a young batting sensation for Pakistan way back on November 22, 1991, in Lahore against the West Indies in the tied second ODI of the series when he scored just 20 off 26 deliveries. Other than Pakistan, the big burly batsman was a regular member of the Asia XI and was twice picked for the ICC World XI; he played most of his departmental with National Bank of Pakistan and United Bank of Pakistan. He was regionally affiliated with Faisalabad and Multan, whereas he played his county cricket for Yorkshire.
The big man never liked to exercise and could not be counted as a fielder who would move quickly around the park as much as the others. With the willow in his big hands he was completely unstoppable unleashing vicious pulls and striking drives. Legendary Imran Khan rates him the best batsman in the world against pace. He was one of those very few individuals who knew the perfect use of his feet to the spinners. With his presence at the wicket, an aroma of cool-headedness was created and the heat could be felt by the bowlers.
He was considered to be the successor of the Legendary Pakistani batsman Javed Miandad as the man of crisis. In Lahore during the 2001-02 series against New Zealand, Inzamam belted 329, the second-highest Test score by a Pakistani and the tenth-highest by anyone.
However, he was then dogged by poor form, scoring just 16 runs in Pakistan’s ill-fated World Cup campaign in 2003. He was dropped from the team briefly, but then roared back to form, scoring a magnificent unbeaten 138 and guiding Pakistan to a thrilling one-wicket win against Bangladesh at Multan. He was rewarded with the captaincy of the team, and despite leading them to victory in the Test series in New Zealand, question-marks about his leadership qualities surfaced when Pakistan were beaten in both the Test series and the one-dayers against India. But the selectors persevered with him and this bore results when he took a team thin on bowling resources to India and drew the Test series with a rousing performance in the final Test, Inzamam’s 100th.
After scoring a magnificent 184, Inzamam led the team astutely on a tense final day and took Pakistan to victory. Since that day, Inzamam has gone from strength to strength as captain and premier batsman. By scoring a hundred against West Indies in June 2005, he kept up a remarkable record of match-winning centuries, amongst the best of modern-day batsmen. A magnificent year ended with Inzamam leading his team to triumph over Ashes-winning England; the series was arguably his best ever. He never failed to make a 50, scored twin centuries at Faisalabad for the first time, going past Miandad as Pakistan’s leading century-maker and joining him as only the second Pakistani with 8,000 Test runs.
He decided to quit the one-day game after Pakistan were eliminated from the World Cup at the first hurdle, an event overshadowed by Bob Woolmer’s death. Even though he expressed his desire to be part of the Test team, Inzamam was not offered a central contract in July and, according to a few, might signal the end of his illustrious international career.
He, however, made that decision himself after signing up for the Indian Cricket League and faced a life-time ban from PCB. He later quit the ICL and made himself available for selection. The second Test against South Africa in Lahore was his farewell game. He fell just two short of Javed Miandad’s record for the highest Test aggregate by a Pakistani batsman and 60 short of a career average of 50.
This is true that the world of cricket would miss one of the finest batsmen cricket has ever seen.
What others said...
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.
Bowling to Inzi 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.
During the 1994 tour of Pakistan, in the game before my Test debut, at Karachi, I was the 12th 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 is an intelligent cricketer.
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.
Inzamam is one of the greatest batsmen who have 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.