In focus Inzamam-ul-Haq dispels some myths about his food habits and fitness
In the last fortnight as the Indian cricket team was outwitted by a resurgent Pakistani team, most cricket analysts went berserk. Some asked for the captain’s head, others demanded an overhaul. Amidst the ‘extremists’, Inzamam-ul-Haq emerged as the voice of reason on ABP News even when his co-panellists Vinod Kambli and Manoj Prabhakar were getting increasingly emotional. “An analyst’s aim should be that the person he is criticising should take something out of his analysis. What’s the point if he shuts down the TV after hearing your comment? As a player one should know how it feels when you are subjected to relentless criticism…Phrases like badal dalo (replace him!) don’t help the cause.” He is surprised by Sachin Tendulkar’s decision to retire from one day cricket. “It was his Test form that was in doldrums. He scored a fifty in his last ODI innings and scored runs in Asia Cup as well. We should respect his decision but I am surprised. The Indian Board should be careful about sidelining senior cricketers because I know Pakistani cricket suffered when in 2003 Pakistan Board allowed Saeed Anwar, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis to quit the game in quick succession.”
It is breakfast time at The One restaurant of Le Meridien and Inzamam seems out of form! Dressed in a traditional sherwani and skull cap, he looks as calm as he used to on the pitch before his bat caressed the ball. Like the way he employed the bat, he is in no hurry to disturb the cutlery. Like the way he used to toy with the ball he has ample time to dispatch the contents of the plate. Ordering a cup of tea, Inzamam clears the air.
“It is a myth that I indulge in rich food and am fond of paranthas and sweets. I try paranthas once in six months and only once in a while binge on kheer .” But do people link his frequent run outs (second highest in One Dayers) with his food habits and fitness? “I was not the only one. Atapattu broke my record, Mohammad Yousuf came very close and you know their figures. Run out has very little to do with fitness, it has more to do with your understanding with the partner. But in my case if anyone got run out while playing with me, the onus was always put on me. Nobody thought that the other person is also human, he could also commit a mistake. Nahin ji Inzamam ki galti hai . It used to make me angry.”
This is yet another charge on the player who led his team with distinction. “Anger is one of the traits that define a man. I don’t say I don’t get angry. I consider the Canada incident (when he ran after a spectator with a bat in hand) as my mistake. No doubt, the spectator used indecent language against me but I should have controlled myself but in the case of Oval Test it was more of a technical issue where our national honour was involved,” reasons Inzamam.
His feet movement and his ability to see fast bowling early has become a part of cricket legends. “Once a team of doctors came to our camp and they said that my right eye’s sight is more than what is normally found. It gave me an edge. Also, I practised with the likes of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis. Waqar used to bowl 150 km/hr plus at the nets. It helped me in facing spinners as well,” reflects Inzamam sipping tea.
In fact it is something that propels him into the kitchen. “I don’t put anything special. It is just about the combination,” offering to prepare it for us one day. “I am good at preparing omelettes and plain rice as well.” It takes him back to the playing days. “In Barbados we used to stay in apartments and were expected to cook our own food. Moin, Mushtaq and I used to stay together and my job was to wash the plates.” On every Indian visit he makes it a point to visit Karim’s in Old Delhi. “Last night I was there with Saeed (Anwar). Like people, there is no difference in the food of two countries. The only thing is here you follow all the rules. Your food is more traditional.” Perhaps that’s why he can’t do without the dal makhani of Bukhara restaurant and chicken kadhai of Dum-Pukht. “Chicken kadhai is my staple dish at home as well. Please mention that my wife cooks good food. Otherwise she will feel bad,” he quips.
Talking of tradition, Inzamam became the new face of Pakistani cricket when he openly displayed his religious beliefs. “Like any professional, sportsmen should follow the path of religion. When I became the captain, I got a very young side and in times when there are so many distractions, it was difficult to focus on the game. I didn’t try to mix the religion with the game. But yes, I tried to follow the path and captain’s personality reflects in the team. I didn’t force anybody but it did help in keeping distractions away.”
His belief stems from the statistics of life. “Do you know I didn’t want to play the most important innings of my life?” He is referring to his game changing innings of 60 in 37 balls against New Zealand in 1992 World Cup that announced his arrival on the big stage. “Before the game I was lying on the doctor’s table lamenting about loose motions. I didn’t even warm up with the team but Imran (Khan) bhai said he won’t to go to the ground without me and you know he was there to guide me.”
Enough time has passed between the lip and the cup and Inzamam moves to a plate of fresh fruits. Many analysts have felt that he didn’t enjoy the fruits of his labour fully. “In the second half of my career I played at number five or six. Sometimes I feel if I had come at number three, I could have turned many of my 80-something into centuries. But in the team’s interest I decided to come lower down the order. At that time I was the captain. I thought of team’s interest as we had players like Younus Khan and Yousuf in the team. But today I feel if I had come up the order my personal record could have been better,” he signs off with a warm handshake.