The phenomenon called Inzi has finally walked into the sunset of his career. The 2nd test against South Africa at the Gaddafi stadium, Lahore proved to be his swansong. Inzamam-ul-Haq, one of the prodigies unearthed by the great Imran Khan was not just a wonderful batsman, but a great cricketer on the field and a good human being off it. Whatever be his limitations like the running between the wickets or his physique, there should be no doubt in any body's mind as to what a wonderful batsman he was. With the technique, timing, shot selection, and the hand-eye coordination, he had lifted Pakistan as a great cricket team. The Flick, the Cut and Pull, the Hook, the Slog sweep and the more orthodox sweep shot, Cover drive, Straight Drive, Back-foot Punch and the Square Cut are all the versatile shots in his book.
There can be many innings played by him that can be described as "the best" by the pundits. Whether it be the 60 against the Kiwis in the semi-finals of thr 1992 World Cup, the 184 against India in Bangalore during his 100th Test Match, the hundred against India in Karachi One Dayer in 2004 which India won by 5 runs, the epic 329 against New Zealand in Lahore in 2002 and the crucial half centuries against Australia and South Africa in Karachi in 1994 and 2007 respectively. But I would choose his undefeated innings of 138 against Bangladesh in his home ground at Multan in 2003 as the best I saw from Inzi. That innings-something for which I stayed glued to the television-was played under immense pressure and that too, with a significant contribution from the tail. Having had a disastrous World Cup campaign in South Africa, where Pakistan crashed out of the first round and where Inzi himself had a poor campaign, the magic in Multan was due to the calming presence of Inzi. Needing to score around 262 for a win, the home team was tottering at 205 for 8 and the Bangladeshis smelling a rare away victory. Inzamam who had been removed from the team after the World Cup was making a comeback. He along with the last two tail enders ensured that the team was home by one wicket. That kind of shots played by Inzi that day just made things more clearer as to why he along with Tendulkar and Lara were among the best batsmen in cricket. My favourite Inzamam shots on any day would be the pull/hook and the flick. The way in which he used to move forward and back against the faster bowlers for the pull/hook shot was just a treat to watch. No wonder Imran called him 'the best player against fast bowling'. Even the sight of his stepping out of the crease to hit the spinners for towering sixes was a also a visual treat.
However, at times he was susceptible to quality bowling. Anil Kumble got him the most (8 times). But even then, Inzamam always came back well against him. His stint as Captain also had its own highs and lows. His partnership with coach Bob Woolmer proved to be a winning combination too!! But then another disastorous World Cup campaign in the Carribean and the tragic death of Bob Woolmer were some of the darkest days not only for him, but for the entire Pakistani cricket history. With the departure of Inzamam, the last of the legends of 1992 World Cup triumph too have moved on. Despite all the ruckus of the ball tamepring and match forfeiture at the Oval against England, the incident only reflected Inzamam's pride in leading Pakistan. Something similar to Arjuna Ranatunga's defence of Muralitharan against umpire Ross Emerson in Australia in 1999!! Standing by his team through the thick and thin brings out the best in the leader and same was true for Inzamam. 17 out of his 22 Test hundreds proving to be match winning ones also speaks loud of his commitmment to the team cause. The reply given by him in his last press conference as a test cricketer, Inzamam had pointed out that he badly wanted to win the match for Pakistan and which he felt could be achieved through aggressive batting; but then the sort of the dismissal (stumped by Boucher in the bowling of Harris) as he said, could on any other day have been a ball that might have fallen into the stands. Inzamam was truly a phenomenon and without him, the soothing effect one feels while watching the Pakistani batting, is no more going to be there. Thus, he just slipped away from Pakistan cricket.