EXCLUSIVE
PAKISTAN SKIPPER INZAMAM

An unassuming Inzamam attributes the success to team effort

By SHAHID HASHMI
Dec 19 - 25, 2005

When Pakistan came face to face against England in the first of three Tests at Multan, it was described as a contest between captain cool Inzamam and a leader with a plan, Michael Vaughan. Looking at Inzamam one feels there is no such thing as hurry, a man who takes life as it comes and making things happen is not him. His equally composed counterpart Vaughan, however, makes things happen and with his plans outwitted the imperious Australians for England's first Ashes win in 18 years two months ago. The 35-year-old Inzamam has modest plans and despite loads of talent he never thinks of conquering the world. But lady luck is smiling on Inzamam these days. Having beaten the Ashes winning England without much difficulty, Pakistan was in the leas in the one-day series and was destined to win it as well.

An unassuming Inzamam attributes the success to team effort. "The team spirit has been exemplary. Everyone has his contriubtion in the series win. It was a very tough series for us and everyone was predicting that England would win. They did start as favourites but the way we won the Multan Test proves that this team has the quality of coming from behind. No target is beyond them and this is the quality of a good team." And with his brilliant 431 runs in three Tests, including a century in each innings at Faisalabad, Inzamam proved that he has devloped the quality fo leading from the front. "I am thankful to the Almighty Allah. I scored runs and I am very happy that because of my good form the team benefitted. I am always happy when I score runs and the team wins, it serves the purpose and I am proud of this team," said Inzamam, who could have come under pressure if the series was lost.

To Pakistan's advantage, Inzamam's counterpart Michael Vaughan fell injured on the eve of the first Test in Multan. The home team took the advantage and it proved a bolt from the blue for the tourists. "We did get benefit of Vaughan getting injured in the first match," said Inzamam, adding, " it threw away the balance of the England team which was winning under Vaughan. They not only won the Ashes but have been winning their last sevene series, so it gave us some edge. They were the dominant side on the first four days but we took the challenge and we knew that chasing 198 on the last day would not be easy for them. They did succumb to the pressure and Danish Kaneria, Shoaib Akhtar, Rana Navedul Hasan and Mohammad Sami, everyone bowled well in that victory."

Then came the second Test, so dominated by Pakistan and Inzamam. The 35-year-old Pakistan captain hit 109 and 100 in the two innings and bettered Pakistan's record of most centuries with 24. The previous record was held by his illustrious former teammate Javed Miandad. Inzamam was full praise for his hero. "I have learnt a lot from Miandad. He taught me a lot of things when we played together and he has a great influence on my career," said the Sultan of Multan. Pakistan, at one point was in danger of losing the Test but when they resumed the fifth day they still had Inzamam at the crease. He batted like a champion and Pakistan finally set England a target of 285. Inzamam then marshalled his bowling resources very well. England were reeling at 4-20 and then 6-138 with Akhtar and Naved chipping in with three wickets apiece. In the end it was Ashley Giles and Geraint Jones who pulled off a draw. "We were in a spot of bother at one point. But I knew that if we play out the first hour on the fifth day we would be safe. In the end we reached a point where we could beat them. We also lost a lot of overs due to bad light and poor weather but in the end we remained the dominant side in the Test," said Inzamam.

Pakistan pulled off the series in a remarkable manner at Lahore. A clinical performance saw them winning the Test by an innings and 100 runs. Even though Pakistan was without their vice captain Younis Khan, ruled out after the death of his elder brother, and Shahid Afridi, who was banned for scruffing a pitch at Faisalabad. "We were without Younis and Afridi but we managed to dismiss England for a low score of 288 and then wehn we batted it was remarkable innings of 223 by Mohammad Yousuf and 154 by Kamran Akmal which paved our way to score a big total of 636," said Inzamam, who too was amongst runs with 97. He also completed 8,000 Test runs and 1,000 in a calendar year 2005.

Inzamam said the series win was a huge step in the right direction. "The series win over England is a huge step forward for this young team. We have been doing well in the one-dayers but needed to do well in Tests. This eries win over England will raise the confidence level we so badly need against India becasue the last time Indians were here we lost the series. Now it would be a very good series against India. I take every series as it comes, so now its the one-day series which is in our mind," said Inzamam. "It was fantastic to see a new man of the match in every game. I am particularly happy the way Shoaib Akhtar has staged a comeback. I was very confident that he would perform and he did. We need every player to contributte and in the series against England every player contriubted which is a good sign for a team.

The development of the side with a number of young players coiming to the fore was praiseworthy. And Inzamam deserves the credit for backing them to the hilt. "The younger players coming to the fore has been a good sign and I am happy that they lived up to the confidence that was reposed in them. The new players establishing themselves is a good omen for Pakistan cricket becasue we have to take this momentum to the World Cup 2007. Our target is to win the World Cup in the West Indies and I see this team well on course for doing that," said Inzamam. And if Inzamam continues to lead from the front, scroing like he has been, the task seems within Pakistan's grasp.