Faisalabad: Inzamam-ul Haq, who has been advised “complete rest” for 48 hours, was in considerable discomfort till rather late on Sunday ' a day when he completed yet another Test hundred (his 25th).
That the Pakistan captain’s back was painful became evident when he spoke to The Telegraph at the Serena Hotel, shortly after an extended session with physio Darryn Lifson.
Clutching the troubled area as he got up from a well-cushioned chair, Inzamam said: “Complete rest for two days means I can’t field during this (second) Test. However, if my services are required, I’ll again bat...”
For now, the captaincy is with Younis Khan. In fact, after a late night development, there’s uncertainty over allrounder Shoaib Malik’s participation in the remainder of the Test, too. Malik’s father is seriously ill in Sialkot and he left around 10.45 pm.
“Malik took one of the vehicles from the car rental (at the hotel), but won’t reach Sialkot till about 2.45 am... We aren’t sure when he’s going to return,” a source pointed out.
Meanwhile, the report wasn’t available, but it’s confirmed Inzamam had an MRI during the day. Apparently, he has a “bulging disc” problem. One isn’t sure whether there’s a link, but the somewhat unprecedented cold wave in Punjab seems to have made it worse.
Unbeaten on 79 on the opening day (Saturday), Inzamam didn’t resume till after two wickets had fallen. Even when he did, a runner was needed. Of course, one of the tallest batsmen of the present era couldn’t be denied a hattrick of hundreds at the Iqbal Stadium.
It’s possible, though, that the 40 runs Inzamam added to reach 119 (251 minutes, 193 balls, 12x4) aggravated the troubled area. But, then, he couldn’t have been in the dressing room when the game plan was to bat just once. Pakistan totalled 588 with No. 9 Shoaib Akhtar contributing a spicy 47 off 54 deliveries (5x4, 3x6).
The Indians have replied firmly ' 110 for the loss of Virender Sehwag, who couldn’t capitalise on a let-off from substitute Imran Farhat. Under pressure for not being able to restrict Pakistan even with five specialist bowlers, Rahul Dravid is on 46. With him is V.V.S. Laxman.
Earlier, despite Inzamam’s courageous effort, the cynosure was Shahid Afridi, who clobbered a career-best 156 from only 128 balls (205 minutes, 20x4, 6x6). The one-time enfant terrible of Pakistan cricket is making the Indians pay a terrible price.
Afridi has lots of time. Plenty of flair as well. And, unlike contemporaries who take guard in full battle gear (arm-guard, chest protector, outer thigh pad), Afridi is content with the helmet. Obviously, he trusts his quick eye.
Incidentally, the stadium was packed to capacity and there were thousands outside who rushed towards the gates each time there was a roar after an Afridi strike. Taken aback, the police made a series of lathicharges. That continued till Afridi got out, to Anil Kumble.
Speaking exclusively, Afridi maintained he wasn’t aware of the police action. “Nobody told me a thing... It’s nice that people see me as a crowd-puller... I suppose I’ve been one for some years...”
Asked (at an interaction with the Media) whether he’d changed his style, Afridi replied: “No... I’ve always been positive... However, cricket is changing... My intention is to keep the scoreboard ticking... At times, woh jaldi chalne lagta hai!”
Afridi accepted that the “body-language” in Indo-Pak face-offs was different. “There’s definitely a difference and it feels good to perform against India...” With scores of 103 and 156, in the ongoing series, he has done just that.