Monday, October 08, 2007

Goodbye Inzamam

It was a crisp Spring day that March in 1992 and I was just another ten year old waiting to be picked up by my father outside our school yard. As soon as I saw his blue Toyota I ran up and opened the door. Even as he was asking me how my day had been I blurted out, "What's the score?"

He shook his head. "New Zealand has made 262, and Pakistan has already lost their opener."

He drove home quickly, and I ignored all of mom's admonitions as I switched on the TV. Pakistan were in desperate straits - 140-4 and not too many overs left. Pakistan had reached this semi-final with the Mother of All Good Lucks; they needed to win every match and needed EVERY other result to go their way - and it all had happened. But now, New Zealand seemed poised to stop their march to the finals.

Enter Inzamam.

A whirlwind 60 runs of 37 balls later, Pakistan was in the driver's seat, and never looked back.

Those were my first memories of Inzamam. I have grown up watching cricket and of the few of legends that played cricket along this time, Inzamam and Tendulkar would probably rate the most for giving me the greatest pleasure. And now Inzamam is retiring, and Tendulkar may do so soon.

Inzamam was unique - he was a chubby fellow who seemed reluctant to run. When in cricket you win by having more runs than the opposition, he was the enigma. A fat man who just stood at one end and biffed the bowlers all over the park he gave the rest of us mere mortals, the aspiring sports stars without the six-pack or the biceps - the Hope - that yes, we too can make it. He was our hero.

I began to hate the Pakistan team in the mid-90s. A team full of arrogant stars who thought they were the be-and-all of cricket. And in the midst of all those egos, one humble man set himself apart - Inzamam.

I remember his quiet personality before the 2007 World Cup, when someone had accused the team of becoming too religious. "Those who say such things are neither religious nor have they played cricket" was his response. Alas, the World Cup was not too kind for him, and forced him to have an emotional retirement in his last ODI game.

Today, Pakistan once more find themselves in a strife. They lost the first match against South Africa, and need to win here in Lahore to draw the series. South Africa are already ahead by a tall score. The openers are unreliable against a pacy South African attack.

Enter Inzamam. Will he save the day for Pakistan yet again, just as he has done many a time for the last decade, for the last time? In four days, we will know. But for now, I will forget the context, the match situation, the sub-plots. Instead, I would watch Inzamam the legend bat - for the very last time.

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