“But where most fail is to realise that “famous kids” have to struggle even more. In a bid to prove that their selection is based on their talent, they need to perform consistently, because even a blip can go a long way in starting the motormouths”
“It’s not my fault that I am his nephew. I can’t help that. The best thing for me is to answer my critics with my bat and I have done that.”
The human world enjoys its share of dramas and controversies, contrary to what many might suggest. Hence, when legend Inzamam-ul- Haq the national selector in his country picked Imam-ul-Haq in the squad for the ODIs against Sri Lanka last year, the Pakistan cricket circuit was rife with the dreaded nepotism remarks. In a desperate bid to display his fairness, Imam’s uncle had passionately defended the cricketer’s records, trying hard to prove that his selection was not a result of the proximity the two shared, but because he, as a chief selector had an eye for the future and that Imam would be the best possible replacement.
But it is just an uncharacteristic human trait that allows many to envisage a downfall for a person who is not particularly well liked. Imam was assumed to have had it easy; he did not have to visit camp after camp in search of mentors. He had a coaching manual right back at home; someone who could explain the nuances and the nous intricately to the youngster ever since he held his willow. Almost similar to the selection of Arjun Tendulkar, Imam too was despised for his family background, with the general consensus being that such “fortunate” kids can warrant a place in any team based on their family name.
But where most fail is to realise that “famous kids” have to struggle even more. In a bid to prove that their selection is based on their talent, they need to perform consistently, because even a blip can go a long way in starting the motormouths. Before his selection in 2017, Imam had two centuries in the Under-23 Emerging Cup in Bangladesh and had been in the national radar right from 2014, when he played for Pakistan in the Junior World Cup.
However, keeping all the criticisms aside, Imam wasted no time in displaying why his uncle holds him in such good stead. He scored a match-winning century on debut against Sri Lanka to become only the second Pakistani to achieve the feat in the history of the game. He had displayed his calm maturity with delightful strokes and even though Imam had been given two reprieves, he had stuck around to become only the second player since Saleem Elahi to script a ton on debut.
Since the momentous occasion, Imam has played 5 ODIs, scoring at an impressive average of 69.25 and a strike-rate of 82.19. He notched up his second ODI hundred in the first ODI against Zimbabwe and though he began slowly, the player soon picked up the pace. He started off his boundary spree with a crisp cover drive that was timed to precision. The player leaned across to get to the pitch of the delivery and as the ball raced away to the rope, the haunting image of Inzaman raced back.
What stood out, was the manner in which Imam executed all his shots. It was clear that the batsman had a definite plan before approaching the next delivery, and when his intentions paid off, it was a sight to behold. In the age of T20s where the ball keeps getting whipped all over the park, the presence of Imam who thought out every stroke, took many back to the heydays of cricket where talent excelled mindlessness.
As Imam grew in confidence and as the footwork impressed, it was hard to miss the uncanny resemblances with his uncle. The style of play remained eerily similar and his stock build and the face was reminiscent of the era when Inzy too was just starting off. Other than the fact that the youngster is a left-hander and that he wears spectacles, it would be hard to differentiate. As Imam rode away to a knock of 128 in 134 balls, somewhere Inzamam too would have heaved a sigh of relief.
Even when Imam was selected for the tour of Pakistan, the former cricketer was pushed to the firing line. And why not? Imam had been selected over Fawad Alam in the team, which seemed a baseless reason for attack, as Imam was an opener and the latter a middle-order batsman. However, once again the 22-year-old rose to the occasion and prevented the experts from attacking his uncle as he turned saviour to take Pakistan home in tough conditions against a buoyant Irish side.
Though Imam might not have the numbers, and truth be told, if a team was picked on numbers alone no senior pro would ever be dropped, he tops the charts when it comes to batting talent in the nation. Instead of criticizing both Inzy and Imam for giving in to familial bonds over the national interest, we must realise that maybe both are masters in their specific fields – a former cricketer performing his job to perfection and picking up a cricketer for no other reason other than the fact that he has potential. Oodles of potential.