In the latest instalment of Wisden‘s The Greatest Rivalry from the Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, the panel – including Waqar Younis and Vinod Kambli – discussed an infamous incident involving the former Pakistani batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq going into the crowd to confront an abusive fan.
The incident took place in 1997 during a Sahara Cup match in Toronto, Canada. In the second match of the series, Inzamam took offence to comments made by someone in the crowd. The precise phrase which drew Inzamam’s ire is not entirely clear, with some reporting that he was called “aloo” [potato] by an Indian fan, while Younis asserts that Inzamam was actually standing up for Mohammad Azharuddin’s wife. Though there is some debate as to the exact cause of Inzamam’s anger, his response was clear as day; Inzamam, wielding a bat, went into the crowd and confronted the abuser.
On the podcast, Nikesh Rughani asked Kambli, who was in the India squad for the series, and Younis what they made of the incident:
VK: “In fact that incident, because we were sitting in the dressing room and our team was batting, the Indian team was batting, we were sitting there in the dressing room and then suddenly we saw Inzi just trying to show for a bat. He was just pointing out to a bat, so I saw the 12th man taking the bat, and passing by his dressing room and passing our dressing room too and went from there straight to Inzi. The entire incident was like, you were literally shocked. It was a shocking moment for all of us.
“We were first of all questioning how come a 12th man is taking a bat to Inzamam, and then the entire incident , whatever happened, but for what it was it was shocking, it was really shocking. We were discussing it with each other why this thing had happened.”
WY: “Normally it is a very good crowd you know, I don’t know if you’ve been to that ground or not, it’s a very very small ground and they put up the scaffolding to make the seats to develop into a small stadium of 7,000-8,000. And everyone is sitting really close by.
“Normally Inzamam fields or stands in the slips, and what exactly happened, I know there’s a story about this ‘aloo’ thing, you know, there was someone calling him allo, and yes there was someone calling him ‘aloo aloo’. But also, what exactly happened [was that] there was someone in the crowd who was not very good to Azharuddin’s wife – I think they were just talking some rubbish – and Inzi being Inzi, he didn’t really like it. And as I was mentioning, the friendship off the field between these two teams’ players was outstanding, it was amazing, they had a lot of respect for each other.
“You know we used to play hard on the field, but when it comes to the friendship we used to really look out for each-others’ back. And what happened [was] because someone was really being rude to Azza’s wife and Inzi just, I don’t know what happened to be very honest, he just decided, he asked, I think Saleem Malik was captain [Ramiz Raja was the Pakistan skipper], he asked Saleem to move him to that fine-leg third-man region, and that’s where he went. And he just asked for the 12th man to bring the bat, and he just gave it to him, and he just ran up the stairs in the scaffolding and brought it down.
“And Inzi had to suffer, Inzi had to apologise and they went to court for that particular incident and Azhar had to come out, which was very nice of Azharuddin, who had to come out and talk to that Indian guy, the guy was Indian I think, and talk to him and sort out that issue out of the court.
“It was sad and it was ugly what happened, but what I’m trying to say here, is you know when it comes to watching each other’s back, both teams have people or players who really love each others company.