Players’ Skipper

Inzamam-ul-Haq presented a picture of a man lost in his own world. He was not a demonstrative captain like Imran Khan or Wasim Akram. He had his own quiet way of functioning from the slips. Just like Mohammad Azharuddin, never looking to impose himself on the bowlers.

Inzamam expected the bowlers to realise their responsibilities. At times he would turn down changes in the field, as he had his own reading of the game. But overall, he was a players’ captain.

Inzamam, though, would never be known for his captaincy. He was not a good communicator but had his own way of conveying to his players the confidence he had in them. And he was easily available to the youngsters who needed his attention, at any time of the day or night.

Inzamam had watched Imran Khan from close quarters, learnt to prosper with the support of his leader, but sadly could not step into the shoes of his mentor. In Tests, Inzamam recorded 11 victories in 31 matches as captain, while in the ODIs he posted 52 victories in 89 games. But he never really enjoyed the responsibility of leading the side. He did not relish the media sessions, but conveyed his message strongly, standing by his players.

The Darrell Hair incident, which led to Pakistan forfeiting the Test against England on account of ‘ball-tampering’, hurt Inzamam the most. It was the most difficult moment of his career. The worst came during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies. Rated as a favourite, Pakistan, like India, went out in the first round. Then came the death of the Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer, which affected Inzamam badly. The double blow shattered the Pakistani and he was never the same cricketer again.

Inzamam had little regrets when he lost the captaincy to a younger colleague but fate had been cruel to the man who had served Pakistan cricket with distinction. He could no longer motivate the side as a leader. Differences among the players made things all the more difficult for Inzamam, who did not shy from making his displeasure public. He was not the same Inzamam who tackled the challenges with a smile right through his career. Now he sported a scowl as he lost control over his players, and finally succumbed to the pressures.

Inzamam paled as a captain but the respect he earned from his team as a batsman proved that he was one of the most revered figures in Pakistan cricket.