For Imam-ul-Haq it will always be tough to come out of the shadow of Inzamam-ul-Haq, his illustrious uncle, but the 21-year-old was confident that he will make his own identity.
It isn’t an easy task. Pakistan has seen Faisal Iqbal often criticised for the influence of Javed Miandad, his uncle.
However, the bespectacled Imam hit a hundred on his One-Day International debut to show that he was his own man. “It’s not my fault that I am his (Inzamam’s) nephew,” said Imam. “I can’t help that. I am not answerable to that. My best is to answer with my bat. I will have failures and every player has failures.”
His 100, with five fours and two sixes, helped Pakistan pull off a series-clinching victory by seven wickets as they chased down a modest 209-run target in Abu Dhabi.
But Lady Luck also smiled on Imam. On 89, he was given out caught behind by Niroshan Dickwella, the Sri Lankan wicketkeeper, off Lahiru Gamage. Imam trudged back towards the dressing room when Richard Kettleborough, the television umpire, signaled that it was an illegal catch with the ball already hitting the ground.
“It was bad feeling, I was on debut so I didn’t look at the ball,” said Imam. “I knew that I had nicked it so I thought it’s one but Sarfraz signalled that the ball had not carried.”
Imam said he was proud to become only the second Pakistani batsman, and 13th overall, to score a hundred on debut. Before him Saleem Elahi scored a debut century, also against Sri Lanka, in Gujranwala in 1995.
“Honestly, I didn’t know about that I am only the second player,” said Imam. “I am very proud, and when I got out Sarfraz told me. It’s a proud moment for me and my country and I will try do my best to do well.”
Imam’s selection was criticised because he performed in four-day matches but was given chance in ODIs, a debate that did not worry him.
“It makes no difference to me because I have grown up in a family where I have a self-belief, I am mature,” said Imam. “I have played in junior World Cups and have performed well, won domestic matches. I will answer with my performance. Critics have their jobs to do and I respect them. If I don’t perform then people will criticise.”
Surprisingly, his idol is not his uncle but another batting great, Younis Khan. “I like Younis Khan for his mental strength and toughness that he had shown in his career, that was outstanding,” said Imam. “He was very punctual and hard working.”
Imam credited Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez for their support. “In this team Shoaib Malik is very supportive and helps every player,” he said. I will also give credit to Hafeez. I was having cramps so he told me that he will beat me if I get out by playing a stupid shot. So he was supporting me.
“Even in the field, he was saying ‘I am feeling that you will score a hundred’. When he came to bat he told me that I should not go without scoring a hundred.”
Imam said his father was a big influence on his career. “My father has been a great influence and used to help me bunk school because my mother was against my playing cricket,” he recalled.