Inzy seeks Waugh-style swansong

Published: Thursday, March 1, 2007, 23:53 [IST]
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Many believed Inzamam-ul-Haq's career was over in 2003, but now he is not only leading Pakistan's challenge in the Caribbean but also seeks a Steve Waugh-style Cup swansong.

Former Australia captain Waugh was on the winning side in his first World Cup in 1987 before leading his team to glory in his last in 1999.

"It would be a great achievement and I dearly want a what Steve had," said Inzamam, who not only had to step down as vice-captain but was also dumped after scoring just 19 runs in six World Cup matches in 2003.

Eleven years before, in 1992, Inzamam had a meteoric rise at international level when he heralded his arrival with a 37-ball 60 against New Zealand in the semi-final and then a robust 42 when Pakistan beat England in the final.

At 22 he became one of Pakistan's most recognised cricket heroes.

One of Inzamam's early admirers, and his 1992 captain, Imran Khan compared him with batting genuises Brian Lara of the West Indies and India's Sachin Tendulkar.

"When I saw him batting in the nets I realised he had the potential of a Lara and Tendulkar and given the confidence he was one of our stars in the 1992 World Cup," Imran said.

Inzamam established himself as one of the most attractive strokeplayers in the game. His deft drives, powerful pulls and cuts have forced many bowlers around the world into submission.

A team man to the core, 17 of Inzamam's 25 Test hundreds have come in the winning cause -- and it was also for the squad that he shed 15 kilos (33 pounds) to get fit for the 2003 World Cup.

Ironically, the loss of weight accompanied an unfortunate loss of form.

Those were Inzamam's darkest days in an otherwise illustrious career.

So miserable was his form that he hit just two boundaries as Pakistan were unceremoniously ousted in the first round of the World Cup in South Africa.

Despite fears he would never play again, it took just six months for him to regain his spot.

A match-winning Test hundred from a losing position against Bangladesh in his hometown of Multan revived his career. A month later, he was appointed captain and things were looking up.

Former captain and 1992 teammate Ramiz Raja said Inzamam had earned respect with his performances.

"When Inzamam came he was like a sleepy young man but his looks were deceptive and he proved an explosive batsman. Now he commands respect in the dressing room and younger players look to him as a role model," said Raja.

And to his advantage, Inzamam used his stature and skill with the bat to transform an unpredictable Pakistan side into a resilient unit and is fast overcoming a static approach as captain.

He is not without controversy as the infamous forfeited Test against England at The Oval in 2006 shows.

Imran says Inzamam needs to be pro-active in the Caribbean.

"Inzamam will have to lead from the front, both as captain and as leading batsman. He is batting at five or six, which is not the right spot for him.

"He needs to bat at four so that he has maximum overs to play."

With age not on his side and his back not as firm as it was in 1992, Inzamam has little cricket left in him. And another World Cup title would be the ideal curtain call.


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