Last-Ball Inzi Has the Last Laugh
By Kamran Rehmat

The problem with last-ball victories is that the fine line between real and ethereal gets blurred. But it is safe to assume they warm the cockles of your heart, if you’re on the winning side.
Even as Pakistani hearts nearly sank with fear of a last-minute reversal, the captain rose not so much like the phoenix from the ashes but colossus that he truly is.
Heavens know Inzamamul Haq has paid the wages of his country’s colors with pride ever since he ferociously square cut Malcolm Marshall twice in his brief essay on international debut in 1991 at Multan.
But to carry on the mission impossible in a manner born, is to lay your claim to legendary status. Last week, the burly giant settled the issue in the hot cauldron of Ahmedabad - need one say, against all odds - with a definitive strike on the last legitimate delivery to seal the fate of the match and bring his team the direly needed parity.
India, which faced the ignominy of seeing their woefully out-of-form skipper Saurav Ganguly suspended, again, for slow over rate, may be inclined to see Inzi’s heroics in the mould of their erstwhile nemesis, Javed Miandad, whose one explosive hit - also in the month of April, 19 summers ago in a desert - had a psychological stranglehold on a whole generation of Indians, not just their cricketers.
Led from the front by Inzi, the young and largely inexperienced Pakistani team deserves plaudits for stretching the limits of their resources and expectations, especially given that most pundits had written their obit even before a ball was bowled in the current series.
As the evening shadows lengthened in Ahmedabad, they cast their own - becoming the first Pakistani side ever to chase a target in excess of 300 and reach home!
Rising to the occasion against an opposition, boasting arguably the world’s most powerful batting line-up, at home - is no mean achievement. Only teams with character come back from behind, fight and win. Inzi’s cubs have twice retrieved lost ground, once during the Test rubber and now in the ODI arena.
But as Inzi’s mentor, Imran Khan, has said time and again, there is no substitute for a captain, who sets a personal example where performance is concerned. It takes care of motivation and more than makes up for lack of charisma, otherwise an endearing feature of leadership. Of late, Inzi, shorn perhaps of the baggage of inflated egos - a particular fast bowler from Rawalpindi comes to mind - is beginning to show his younger mates, the way up.
Inzi has endured a fair share of highs and lows as the steward of the ship since formally assuming the mantle in the winter of 2003. His honest, though not necessarily methodical, approach is apparently, beginning to pay dividends.
Not assertive by nature, which can be counterproductive in a cutthroat world, he has still managed, in his own time and place - much like his sauntering between the two ends of a wicket - to carve out a niche for himself as captain.
About his batting prowess, one runs the risk of stating the obvious. He has carried the weight of his country’s hopes on his broad shoulders for more than a decade now and delivered.
Inzi’s grand effort, which ultimately, led to a fantastic last-ball victory, will however, have to contend for a place in a personal hall of fame. No one can forget his stunning assault in the semi-final of the 1992 World Cup, which was followed by yet another date with glory in the final of the same tournament. They set him up for the Big Time.
Perhaps, it was his rearguard action less than two years ago, which saved his country from the ignominy of losing a Test at home against minnows Bangladesh that ranks the highest. Inzi fought from the edge of precipice, farming the strike from tail-enders to spare his team the blushes and go on to win. Such innings are played only once in a lifetime.
With that innings, one thought Inzi had done enough to find a place in the game’s pantheon. But there was more to come, when he played arguably the best innings of his life as captain - even if it ended in a losing cause - when Pakistan almost overcame a tsunami-like score of 350 in Karachi last year.
Since then, Inzi has played two majestic knocks on this very tour - one in Bangalore Test, his hundredth, and the other in Ahmedabad. Both match situations presented a back-to-the-wall proposition, but true to his mien, he came out all guns blazing.
In Bangalore, he was fighting to salvage his team’s pride - and very likely his captaincy; in Ahmedabad, he was waging a battle to bring parity - and exorcise the demons of history that showed Pakistan had never chased anything over 300 to win.
Small wonder almost everyone has gone gaga over the stupendous Inzi show even though the fare was inevitably, colored with the usual suspect - the run-out! In fact, there were two - though to be fair to Inzi, the ones involving Younis Khan and Kamran Akmal were their own making. In the end, Inzi just ran the opposition out.

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
2004 . All Rights Reserved.