KARACHI: When he was first picked to represent Pakistan, critics termed him as a “parchi” — referred by someone influential to gain an advantage over others — but Imam-ul-Haq proved his critics wrong with a sensibly outstanding performance.

Interestingly, however, none of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) teams had initially picked Imam either but the opportunity knocked on his door when Peshawar Zalmi tapped him as their 21st player.

But now, with 338 runs in 11 innings, the top-order batter is among the four leading scorers in the PSL’s fourth edition, with none of his peers having scored more runs than him this season.

Before PSL’s latest season started, many believed that Imam was not a player for shorter format. Yet, the 23-year old had vowed to prove himself as equally good in the shortest format when he spoke to Geo News prior to the start of the league.

And, it looks like he has done just that.

“I’m thankful to Allah [God] that I am in a good form and continuing with that form. As I told you in my last interview, T20 is not just all about power hitting or smashing for sixes; you need to play intelligently and pure cricketing shots in this format as well, and such a strategy can always help you in scoring good runs.

“It is a smart game. I relied on my cricketing shots … I knew my ability and worked hard that helped me,” Imam told Geo after his 58-run innings against Islamabad United in the PSL’s second eliminator game.

Though he is often taunted for being the nephew of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s chief selector and former captain, he understands the feelings of his critics well, which is why he feels that he has to prove every time he walks into the field.

“It is natural that one has to prove in every format, but I have to prove myself every time I go to bat,” he said.

The young batter said he knows his ability and believes in working hard; however, whether he gets picked or not is not in his hands.

Imam said he was grateful to the Zalmi management for placing their confidence in his abilities that helped him express himself better and assertively.

“I am thankful to Zalmi’s management who showed confidence in my ability and allowed me to express myself, which empowered me to give my best,” he said.

In the 11 games he has appeared in for Peshawar, Imam scored four half-centuries but the one he scored Friday night against Islamabad United was his favourite of all time as it came to a knock-out stage that helped his side reach the PSL final.

Having set his eyes on the final now, he has pledged to give another match-winning performance for Zalmi. “I always try to give my best in every game, be it a league match or a final match,” he said.

“I will try to play according to the situation and give my best to the team. I want to enjoy as much and express myself in the match,” Imam said.

“We were thinking game by game. We will try to take the final like a normal game, and that would be the key to success.

“Both the teams have big match winners and it is going to be a tough game for both the sides and it will be the test of nerves for both the teams and the one who can overpower the pressure will be the one winning the title,” he added.

Imam said he was also excited to play in front of the crowd at home ground and the chants of “Zalmi! Zalmi!” in a packed National Stadium was something he was very restless for.

“I was eager to play at home. Karachi and Lahore both are my home. The crowd supported Peshawar Zalmi, which made everyone so excited. This all shows that the PSL has become one of the top leagues,” he said.

“We have conveyed the message to the world that we can host more matches now. The crowd of Karachi was awesome in all the games.

“Also, the credit goes to security forces and the government for making everything possible. We have given the message that Pakistan is a safe country to play,” the young batter mentioned.