Has the Last Laugh
By Kamran Rehmat
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.