Home > Cricket Article, icl info, IPL News > Farewell to Inzy, one of cricket’s all-time greats

Farewell to Inzy, one of cricket’s all-time greats

And so Inzamam-ul-Haq has decided to call it a day. Sunday’s second Test against South Africa at Lahore will be his 120th and last for Pakistan, at which point prepare yourself for a host of epitaphs lamenting the end of an era. They will be right too. I don’t know about you, but I’m missing him already.

Players from the subcontinent have not always inspired affection from the rest of the cricketing world. You can admire Tendulkar, swoon at Imran, respect Dravid and wonder at Murali. But Inzamam was different.

We even called him “Inzy” because the way he went about things seemed to demand a leisurely informality. He once made 114 and 85 in a Test at Old Trafford and barely broke sweat. It remains one of the most quietly commanding performances of the modern era.

Let’s get one thing straight: Inzy is one of cricket’s all-time greats. He has scored more than 20,000 international runs, and needs another 20 to break Javed Miandad’s Pakistan Test record of 8,832. He averages 50 and once scored 329 in a single innings against New Zealand, batting for almost 10 hours in the heat of Lahore to stick two gentle fingers up to those who teased him about his weight.

This was part of his charm. Few sportsmen in the modern era have combined such apparent indolence with such devastating hand-eye co-ordination. He gave new meaning to the phrase “economy of movement”, mainly because he wasn’t fussed about using his foot, either at the crease or between the wickets.

He was run out 40 times in one-day internationals (only Sri Lanka’s Marvan Atapattu, with 41, has suffered more). His attitude to practice would have driven Duncan Fletcher to distraction. His press conferences were tedious (Vic Marks called them “much Urdu about nothing”).

Yet few could match him. He was the lumbering antithesis of modern sport’s obsession with bleep tests, energising drinks and fat-free diets. Perhaps he encouraged us to think we had a chance too.

There were dark moments, of course: he once waded into a crowd in Toronto with a bat to accost a spectator who had been bellowing “aloo” (Hindi for potato) through a megaphone; he was accused by Justice Qayyum, compiler of Pakistani cricket’s most famous report into match-fixing, of suffering “partial amnesia” about a suspect game in Christchurch; he was accused of taking his devotion to Islam too far for the good of the team ethic; and he was at the centre of the abandonment of the Oval Test last year, when his insistence that a nation had been insulted began to wear thin.

Somehow, these moments all added to, rather than detracted from, the legend. And to understand it properly, you have to go back to the beginning. It was in the 1992 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand at Auckland that Inzamam – svelte, beardless, and barely 22 – made a staggering 60 off 37 balls to rescue a match that had seemed lost.

In the final, he hit England for 42 off 35 deliveries. As Imran retired, Inzamam took the baton and settled down to the business of scoring runs. Lots of them.

Australia and South Africa generally got the better of him, which was no disgrace. But against all others he scored at will. Across two Test series against England in 2001 and 2005-06, he made nine successive scores of 50 or more.

That sequence included twin centuries at Faisalabad, where he seemed to assume the status of a demi-god. When England ran him out for 97 in the next Test, it felt like a success.

Now, he has one more chance to stir the memories. The chairman of the Pakistan board is already referring to the Lahore match against South Africa as the “Inzamam Test”, which places him on a Pakistani pedestal already inhabited by Imran, Javed and Wasim Akram.

After that, he will play in the ill-conceived Indian Cricket League. There will be some meaty pulls, a run-out or two and a nice cheque at the end of it. Heck, he just about deserves it.

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