There were plenty of raised eyebrows when Pakistan announced their ODI squad for the series against Sri Lanka, with one name standing out. It was of Imam-Ul-Haq, a young left handed opener who was called up for the first time to represent his country. Although he showcased his talents in various tournaments, many believed his selction was mainly thanks to him being the nephew of the one & only Inzamam-ul-Haq, who’s now Pakistan cricket’s chairman of selectors. But after yesterday’s memorable debut century, there can be little doubt about his abilities with the cricketing world heaping on praises for the opener.
Imam first came into contention after impressing in the Under-19 World Cup back in 2014. With tons against Nepal and Hong Kong for Pakistan Under-23 earlier this year and his form in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, it was no longer possible for the selctors to overlook him. After Azhar Ali’s injury which ruled him out of the ODI series, the 21 year old was slotted in and he took the opportunity with both hands.
With rumors of favoritism, Inzamam said, “Look, you have to notice the talent and what he can do. His performance was good in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Then he scored two hundreds for the Under-23 team in the triangular tournament in Bangladesh. He scored a hundred in Sialkot. Even Mickey (Arthur) and Sarfraz (Ahmed) gave (their) opinions. We all consult each other”.
Imam silenced his critics in the only way he knows, by scoring a match winning ton that helped Pakistan clinch the ODI series against Sri Lanka with two matches remaining. He became only the 2nd Pakistani to score a debut ton, joining Saleem Elahi. While receiving his well deserved Man of the match award, the youngster said, “Very proud about it. Honestly, I didn’t know about that record. Once I had gone back to the dressing room Sarfraz [Ahmed] told me. It’s a great feeling to score a hundred on debut. It’s a proud moment for me, very happy to do it for Pakistan”.
Whether his roots piles on extra pressure on him, the youngster was quick to deny such discussions by saying, “It makes no difference to me because I have grown up in a (cricketing) family. I have self belief and I am mature. I have played in Junior World Cups and have performed well to win in domestic matches. My best answer is to perform. If I don’t perform then people will criticise. It’s not my fault that I am his nephew. I can’t help that. I am not answerable to that. The best I can do is to answer with my bat. I will have failures and every player has that failure,”
Imam’s ton almost didn’t happen when he edged a Dushmantha Chameera on 89. While he was walking away with understandable disappointment, the umpires called on the Tv umpire and it was shown that keeper Niroshan Dickwella failed to collect the ball cleanly. Imam, after getting a 2nd life, made no mistake In reaching the magnificent milestone.