Image courtesy of: ESPNcricinfo
Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq has recalled how he cried in the shower for hours due to self-doubt and the fact that people constantly accused him of getting into the national team since he is the nephew of former captain and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq.
Imam opened up on the constant nepotism accusations and how he felt alone and cut communications with his family.
The 24-year-old noted that he only had one friend – Babar Azam – when he was called up to the Pakistan team, but since Azam was so focused on his career and turning his fortunes around after a disappointing start in Test cricket, they didn’t talk much.
Imam conceded that the pressure and loneliness took a serious toll on his happiness and mental health.
“To be honest, when I was picked for Pakistan, I only had one friend – Babar [Azam],” he told former India cricketer Deep Dasgupta in an interview for ESPNcricinfo as quoted by Wisden. “But there was a communication gap between us because he was playing regularly for the national team and I was playing domestic cricket. So, we weren’t talking a lot.
“Moreover, he was focused on his cricket and he was in very good form and had scored two back-to-back centuries in the ODI series against Sri Lanka. Because his performances in the Test matches weren’t very good, he wanted to make up for it. So, he wasn’t talking much.
“When all of this started happening, I would have my meals all alone,” he said. “It was my first tour and you know how it can get on the first tour. And whenever I would open my phone, there were people tagging me on social media posts or sending me stuff. I was very disheartened and couldn’t understand anything. I stopped talking to my family because I didn’t want to put them under any pressure that I’m facing problems. I switched off and handed both my mobile phones to my manager, and said, ‘I can’t take this, please take them off me.’
“I remember crying in the shower for hours that I haven’t even played yet [he played the third ODI of the series in Abu Dhabi]. It’s very easy for young players to get surrounded by self-doubt. The only thing running constantly in my mind was that I haven’t even played [for the national team] yet, what if I play and don’t perform well? Then my career will be over. I wouldn’t step a foot out of my room, fearing people might trouble me outside, because there is a large Pakistan community in Dubai.
“So I didn’t play the first two matches of the series, Ahmed Shehzad played in them but he couldn’t perform [well]. In the team meeting after the second match, Mickey Arthur announced a 14-strong team for the next match, and I was included in that. And he said that you will be informed if you will be playing the night before [the match].
“But I didn’t get any call or message in the night, so I thought I wasn’t playing. We were living in Dubai, and from there we had to travel to Abu Dhabi on the match-day, which is a two-hour drive. So we had to leave around 11am-12pm for the match and I got his [Arthur’s] message at around 9.30am, which I still remember, ‘Immy, it’s your time, be ready and good luck.’
“After that, I don’t remember anything. My mind was completely blank. I was hoping he hadn’t messaged me. He shouldn’t have. Because my confidence had hit the rock-bottom and I was feeling so low that I felt I won’t be able to perform in the match. I was focusing less on the match and more on what would happen after. What if I couldn’t perform? My career will get badly affected and everyone will say they were right to criticise me. Because the media was only discussing my inclusion in the side.”
Despite being worried about his ODI debut, Imam shone brightly as he scored a sensational century against Sri Lanka.
Since then, Imam has really excelled in the 50-over format, where he has scored 1,723 runs in 37 ODIs, which includes seven centuries and six fifties, at an average of 53.84.
In fact, Imam is currently the second-fastest batsman to score 1,000 runs in ODI history.
Imam is currently in England with the Pakistan team, where he is preparing for the upcoming Test and T20 series.
The Pakistan team are currently in Derby, but will travel to Manchester on August 1 prior to the start of the Test series.
Pakistan are scheduled to play three Tests and three T20 Internationals against England, with the first Test starting on August 5 in Manchester and the T20 series beginning on August 28 at the same venue.