Imam-ul-Haq, the newest sensation of Pakistan cricket has a long way to go, but at least he has started off his journey in a fascinating fashion by smashing an ODI century on debut against Sri Lanka becoming the 2nd Pakistani and the 13th overall to score a century on ODI debut. He is the nephew of a certain Inzamam-ul-Haq who remains Pakistan’s greatest ever batsman. So he has huge footsteps to fill in.
Imam used to get enough training from his uncle at a young age. His father was very supportive and allowed him to skip school for cricket practise going against his mother’s wishes. Imam went on to play Pakistan at the Junior level and was impressive in the 2014 Junior World Cup. He has been in impressive form in the domestic circuit and twin centuries in the U-23 Emerging Cup in Bangladesh paved way for the entry of Imam into the Pakistan national side.
“I am proud to score a hundred on debut. When I was told that I achieved the honour of scoring a debut hundred I felt more proud to do this feat for my country,” the 22-year youngster said.
Barring Imam, Saleem Elahi is the other Pakistan batsman to smash an ODI century on debut against the same opponents way back in 1995.
There is a similarity to Inzamam in his batting style despite Imam being a left-handed batsman. He wears a pair of specs which is a rarity in these days. “Inzi uncle has been a great influence. Whenever I need help in batting he gives me time and always tells me to be positive, play brave cricket and believe in destiny,” said Imam.
But being the nephew of a certain Inzamam has its disadvantages as the latter heads the Pakistan Selection Committee, and Imam’s selection was criticised by many citing it to be Inzamam quota, but the southpaw proved his mettle and made everyone aware of his exploits in his very first game only by smashing a century.
“It’s not my fault that I am his nephew,” Imam said. I can’t help that. The best for me is to answer my critics with my bat and I have done that. It makes no difference to me because I have grown up in a (cricketing) family. I have self-belief and I am mature and I have played in Junior World Cups and have performed well to win in domestic matches.”
Imam got the scare of his life when he adjudged out on 89 when he had knicked a delivery back to the keeper. He was slowly trudging off the field when Mohammad Hafeez went and asked him to pause for the umpires to check the legality of the catch. Television replays showed that the ball had touched the ground and the decision had to be overturned giving a huge sigh of relief to Imam.
“Obviously it was bad feeling,” Imam said. I knew that I had nicked it, so I thought it’s out and I have lost a chance to score a hundred. But when I knew that it was not out I felt like I was given a new life.”