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Inzamam wakes up to another century

March 23, 2005 17:56 IST

The story goes that Inzamam-ul-Haq, after devouring a big breakfast, was snoozing with his pads on in the dressing room during the final of the 1992 World Cup against England in Melbourne.

He was shaken from his slumber at the fall of a wicket, told to march to the centre and to be particularly careful against Ian Botham.

When he returned after a vital 35-ball 42, having shown no mercy to any of the bowlers, he was asked why he had not been more watchful while facing Botham.

The answer was simple. The 22-year-old, playing his first tournament away from home, had not recognised him.

As Inzamam, 35, gets ready for his 100th Test in the third match of the series against India starting on Thursday, the anecdote still sums up a man who loves his food, loves his sleep and manages to make batting look ridiculously simple.

He will be the fourth Pakistani, after Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram and Salim Malik, to reach the 100-mark.

In 99 Tests, Inzamam has scored 7,238 runs at 48.90. His consistency compares favourably with most of his rivals.

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During the second half of his career and in his last 45 Tests since 1999, that average has swelled to 58.54. Sixteen of his 20 centuries have come in the period, including his two biggest knocks -- 200 not out against Sri Lanka in Dhaka and a 10-hour 329
against New Zealand at Lahore.

The hallmark of Inzamam's batting is how late he plays the ball. With his ample bulk and almost lazy movement, batting just seems to happen to him.

Only the second Pakistani after Hanif Mohammad to score a triple-century, which innings showed he had tremendous staying power, although 206 of those runs came in boundaries, ensuring Inzamam did not have to expend too much unnecessary energy.


But for all his success Inzamam will also be fondly remembered as one of the worst runners between the wickets that the game has ever seen.

When the time comes to set off for a sharp single, he seems to be blighted with such doubt and confusion that he and his partner inevitably end up together at one end.

His fans are able to see the funny side to this, coining the chant of "Run, Inzy, run!"

Delightfully witty in all his news conferences as Pakistan captain, Inzamam argues with a smile that he can run as fast as anybody.

He did, however, fail to see the funny side on one memorable occasion.

A spectator armed with a loudspeaker at a one-day international in Toronto gave him the immortal sobriquet of "aloo", or potato, which so incensed the big man that he waded into the crowd, swinging a bat in pursuit of his tormentor.

Inzamam hails from the dusty town of Multan, famous for its Sufi saints, the battle between Alexander and the Hindu king Porus, and for the good manners of its inhabitants.

The Haqs are believed to be direct descendants of the prophet Mohammad. Inzamam's father is famous for his religious discourses.

Inzamam started his career as a left-arm orthodox spinner. Regularly called for throwing, he was left with no choice but to concentrate on wielding the willow.

His leadership qualities have been questioned since Pakistan lost both the Test and one-day series against India last year.

As with most things, however, Inzamam takes the criticism in his stride. It seems unlikely that he will lose much sleep over it.

Kunal Pradhan
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