Johannesburg: Pakistan vice-captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, who has been the butt of jokes at grounds around the world because of his weight, has unveiled his new slim-line look.
The batsman, who played a crucial role in Pakistan's progress to its World Cup triumph in 1992, said that he had lost 23 pounds in the last six months. "I want to look the same as I looked during the 1992 World Cup - a shy and thin boy," smiled Inzamam, who boasts an International One-day record of 8,939 runs from 284 games at 39.20. It was as a raw 22-year-old that he made his mark in the 1992 final when he hit 60 off 37 balls against New Zealand in the semi-final before helping his side to a 22- run win over England in the final. "It has taken a lot of sacrifice to lose weight but then if I had to be in the best of shapes, I had to do it.
"After all, this World Cup means a lot not only to me but to 140 million people back home who expect me to perform," Inzamam said at the Wanderers here on Friday. "I'm sure I will not be criticised for my weight this time. I feel fresh and more athletic after having lost the weight. I can feel there is a huge difference between the Inzamam of today and Inzamam of maybe six months ago. I have had long nets and fielding sessions and I don't feel tired at all. "Now I am sure that I will be able to spend more time at the crease because the new- look body will now put lesser pressure on my knees.
"At the same time, I can be quicker between the wickets and therefore, little chance of being run-out," Inzamam said. "I would like to lose another five pounds by the time we take on India on March 1." Inzamam will be playing in his fourth World Cup and has so far scored 624 runs from 24 matches at 29.71. "I consider I have a big role to play and need to lead by example.
I have to carry the younger boys and they will only succeed if I am there in the centre to guide them, exactly the way Javed Miandad did in the 1992 World Cup," said Inzamam whose best score in the tournament remains 81. He admitted that Pakistan had a rough last couple of months. But stressed that it was now a rejuvenated team and there has been a sudden change in the attitude of the players. It's a quality they will need when they face bitter rivals Australia in their opening game here on February 11. Pakistan lost to the Australians in the final at Lord's in 1999.
"We play against Australia first and irrespective of the result, we would know that we wouldn't face them again until the semi-final or the final," said Inzamam. "That would allow the boys to stay focused on the remaining games, including against India. "We played excellent and aggressive cricket in 1999 but suddenly the graph went down and we lost badly in the final. Now we can only learn from that."