| Inzamam-ul Haq and Shoaib Akhtar at the practice session in Lahore. (AFP)
Lahore, Feb. 24: Inzamam-ul Haq is undecided on whether to retain his new look, featuring a post-Haj beard, but is clear about not taking anybody in Team India lightly.
Of course, the Pakistan captain, who has also shed some kilos, expects a “zabardast (terrific) series”.
“Nobody will be able to get away from pressure.… Only, at times, it could be a little less.… Equally, in keeping with past matches, kaante ka takkar hoga (It’s going to be a needle affair).… My own belief is that we should look at the tour as a big victory for cricket and not get emotionally worked up,” Inzamam said this evening.
Speaking after the conditioning camp’s opening sessions, he added: “For the players, nerves ka sawaal hoga (Nerves will come into play).… The ones who keep cool are going to make the maximum impact.… It ought to be different when the exchanges become regular.… It will be easier on us.”
Asked to list the most significant difference between the present Indian team and the earlier ones, Inzamam paused for a moment and replied: “This lot fights.… They don’t give up....”
“I’m not sure who deserves credit, but this team is definitely different. People are talking of the Test series in Australia, but I’ll say the improvement began some time ago.”
Acknowledging that the Indian batting packed more power, Inzamam remarked “our bowling, though, is better”. But is he going to be heavily dependent on the mercurial Shoaib Akhtar' “I don’t believe in looking to just one player. Theek hai, he’s a key member, but it’s a team sport and I don’t encourage notions of a one-man show. Winning may become difficult with such an approach....”
By the same logic, Inzamam isn’t targeting one Indian. “I won’t be taking anybody lightly.... It will be a big series and, with so much at stake, even the least experienced could get motivated and produce an inspiring performance.”
Incidentally, Inzamam more than indicated he may fall back on the Saqlain Mushtaqs. He specifically said: “Because of the pressure element, I would like experienced hands.… It’s going to be easier for them to keep nerves in check.... It will be nice if, for instance, Saqlain regains form....”
Inzamam has shifted to Lahore, but his roots are in Multan and, so, he is happy that the Test component of the biggest series of his captaincy is going to begin there. “Inshallah, we will have a good result.... I’m quite excited.... Multan has a fantastic stadium and the wicket is truly sporting,” he pointed out.
As the time for namaaz neared, Inzamam could take one more question: As captain, how is he going to ensure his players keep cool' Smiling, he answered: “By staying cool myself.... If my own body language is otherwise, the players will get more hassled.... I’ll have to set an example.... I’m into a pressure job, lekin main ready hoon (I’m prepared)….”
Clearly, Inzamam isn’t laid- back any more.