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'Inzi, unique among modern cricketers'
by Gulu Ezekiel
Mar 25, 2005
Inzamam-ul-Haq is unique among modern cricketers and the world of cricket is richer for such characters.

In a day and age where fitness is the mantra by which sportspersons sometimes appear to live and die, ‘Inzi’ tends to defy all acceptable norms.

His figure and laid-back attitude, deceptive though it can be, is a throw back to cricket’s early years when men of bulk bestrode the game with seemingly effortless ease and charm.

The last of these players embodying the amateur spirit was perhaps England’s consummate stroke-player Colin Cowdrey.

The Pakistan captain could not have celebrated the Bangalore Test in a more apt manner by becoming only the fifth in history to mark his 100th Test with a century. Now of course he will be hoping to convert individual heroics into victory for his side.

For a batsman who averages in the high 40s, it is difficult to slot Inzi into the contemporary ranks of Sachin Tendulkar, Matthew Hayden, Brian Lara, Jacques Kallis, Rahul Dravid, Adam Gilchrist and others all of whom top the benchmark to measure true greatness, an average of 50-plus.

Then again, as captain of Pakistan the man from Multan is in one of the hottest seats in international cricket.

A man with a droll and dry sense of humour, an essential trait if one is to survive in the cesspool that is Pakistani cricket, Inzi has managed to keep his head above water in the 18 months he has been in charge.

Stories of Inzi’s laidback attitude to fitness and his voracious appetite are legion. While he can be surprisingly quick in the field, his running between the wickets tends to be both woeful and hilarious, not if you are a Pakistani supporter though.

To make up for this lack of mobility in taking sharp singles and converting one’s into two’s, is his remarkable strength that ensures he gets a large percentage of his runs through boundaries.

Though he is seen as a match winner due to the number of victories in which he has played a leading part, Pakistan cricket in his time has been blessed with legendary bowlers like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis and it is bowlers who always win matches.

You cannot after all win a Test without taking 20 wickets, notwithstanding declarations.

Inzi first made a dramatic impact as a 22-year-old in the 1992 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand when his sensational 60 knocked the Kiwis out of the semifinals.

Imran Khan predicted a bright future for him and went so far as to say he would be bigger than Tendulkar. That prediction has proved to be off the mark though there is no doubting his worth to Pakistan. But like so many fine batsmen before him, his form has dipped since assuming the captaincy.

Before that he became only the second Pakistani to score a triple century (against New Zealand in May 2002). There followed a miserable World Cup in South Africa. But just months later he helped Pakistan pull off a nail-biting one-wicket victory against Bangladesh with an amazing century at Multan.

Despite a sound thrashing at the hands of Australia and last year, defeats to India in both the Test and ODI series, Inzi appears firmly in the saddle.

He still has a lot to give Pakistan cricket and fans around the world should be able to savour his batting, a unique blend of the silken and the sledgehammer, for a few more years yet.

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