Johannesburg: Inzamam-ul Haq and Andrew Flintoff have several things in common. Most strikingly, both are half the men they used to be.
Pakistan vice-captain Inzamam, to be accurate, is some 10 per cent less of the figure he cut just five months ago. “I’ve lost 12kg since September,” he says. “I’m down from 104 to 92kg. I feel very good. My wife says I look five years younger.”
Inzamam and Flintoff, who come face to face when Pakistan meet England in a World Cup group A encounter in Cape Town Saturday, both used to be renowned for girth. Flintoff, with his taste for pizzas and beer, was read the riot act by coach Duncan Fletcher a few years ago when the 6-ft-4 allrounder tipped the scales at 114kg — more than world heavyweight boxing champion Lennox Lewis.
Fletcher had told Flintoff, who had been plagued by back problems, that it was high time to slim down if he wanted to save his career. Inzamam, fast approaching his 33rd birthday, got the message at last year’s Champions Trophy.
He had already undergone knee surgery and was struggling with an ankle problem which will also require an operation after the World Cup. “I realised I had to get fit and reduce if I wanted to enjoy a long career. The doctor and physio helped me to get my diet sorted out.
“I do miss some things, though. I love eating chicken with gravy. I still eat chicken, but only grilled.”
Saturday’s match is hugely significant for both sides as they try to qualify from a tough group including Australia, India and Zimbabwe. Neither Flintoff, one of the hardest hitters around, nor Inzamam, not short on power himself, have struck any sort of form to date in this Cup.
Inzamam, one of the most erratic and comical runners in the game, provoked playful chants of “aloo” and “run, Inzy, run” at the 1999 World Cup from Pakistan fans.
“They meant it affectionately,” Inzamam smiles. “They don’t call me that now. Perhaps they can’t recognise my shape any more but they can recognise my strength.” (Reuters)