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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 09:54 GMT
Funny man Inzamam
By Shahid Hashmi

Someone once asked Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq why he wins the toss so often and his reply was: "I practise a lot."

We have the talent to match England blow for blow

For those who know little about him, his sense of humour is surprising.

Indeed, for anyone who has seen his running between the wickets, he is surprisingly quick with his quips.

Inzamam, who hails from Multan - where the first Test against England will start on 12 November, and a town famous for saints - has always come across as a laid-back character.

It has led observers into making rash judgements.

"I saw him play in Lahore in the late 1980s and thought that he had the making of a great player," his one-time mentor Ishaq Patel recalls.

Patel's assertion was mocked by friends who said the rotund youngster would not make it and dismissed the batsman as lazy.

Inspirational former Test captains Imran Khan and Javed Miandad disagreed and took him under their wings.

"I think Inzamam is as talented as Brian Lara and Sachin Tendulkar but little does he realise his true talent," former team-mate Imran once said.

Imran was captain of the 1992 World Cup-winning side when the raw 22-year-old smashed 60 off 37 balls in the semi-final against New Zealand.

Imran Khan and Inzamam-u-Haq celebrate winning the 1992 World Cup
The legendary Imran recognised the potential in Inzamam early on

He had seen enough to predict the youngster would become a world-class batsman.

A total of 7,621 Test and 10,971 one-day international runs later, "Inzy" has vindicated Imran and proved the sceptics wrong.

But if 1992 opened the gates to fame, a paltry 19 runs in six innings at the 2003 World Cup nearly shut the door.

Now 35, he says helpful words from a loved one have helped him deal with the twin imposters of triumph and disaster.

"I looked to my father for guidance, and still take advice from him," Inzamam acknowledges.

"It was a phase I would most like to forget but my father rescued me and told me that bad times are for good times."

True enough, Inzamam's fate took another turn for the good and within five months he was installed as captain.

He may not be a natural leader but he has learned fast and is seen as a role model for youngsters in the dressing room.

"I don't think he found it hard to establish his authority," explained Ramiz Raja, former Pakistan captain and ex-chief executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

Inzamam-ul-Haq helps promote the Test series in India earlier this year
It's in my nature to be down to earth but on the ground I show aggression

"And to his advantage, Inzamam has been performing, which allows him to ask questions of non-performers."

Coach Bob Woolmer added: "I don't think he found any trouble in establishing authority over the younger players.

"I enjoy a great relationship with him and it's getting stronger. Inzamam makes everyone comfortable in the dressing room.

"But at times he needs to be proactive. If someone plays a bad shot he needs to make them realise."

Despite being far from a natural athlete, Inzamam has also earned respect by trying his best to match his team-mates in the gym.

"He inherited fitness problems in his knee and back, but he has worked hard with our trainer Murray Stevens," Woolmer revealed.

Devoutly religious and family man he may be, but Inzamam admits he is transformed when out on the cricket field.

And he is warning England that he and his team-mates will be no pushovers in the three-match Test series and five one-dayers.

"It's in my nature to be down to earth but on the ground I show aggression," he added.

"We have the talent to match England blow for blow.

"They have quality players, and their adrenalin will be pumping after their Ashes glory, but we too are not short on enthusiasm."


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