New Delhi: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan may have claimed victory in the general elections but Khan will always be first the ‘Kaptaan’, who pulled off the impossible – transform an immensely talented but fractious bunch of cricketers into world beaters.
There were many international captains during the ’80s but there was only one leader on the cricket field and that was Pakistan’s Imran Khan. It was an era when India lost more often to Pakistan (in Sharjah mostly) and those who would be glued to Doordarshan on their black and white TV sets during the balmy October or November afternoons, would secretly wish that Imran was leading their team.
Sanjay Manjrekar, in his autobiography ‘Imperfect’, put it aptly that he would have been a better international cricketer had Imran been his captain. During his time, Imran was one of the finest all-rounders, a world-class fast bowler but perhaps it is the cult status he attained due to his leadership that made him stand out from the pack.
The charming Oxford educated debonair with a deep baritone
There were four cricketers who fought for the best all-rounders’ tag in the 1980s and were vastly different from each other. Kapil Dev was a natural talent with a toothy grin and an earthen persona. Richard Hadlee was a meticulous planner and discipline personified. Ian Botham was a maverick, who could be a genius on his day. And there was Imran Khan, the Oxford-educated debonair, deep baritone adding to his persona, who could unsettle best of the batsmen with his “in-dippers”, not to mention the charm offensive he could turn on in his public dealings.
Man who made Wasim, Waqar and Inzamam
Wasim Akram was more artistic than him as a bowler but he wouldn’t have been half the bowler had his ‘Captain’ not stood at mid-on to guide him. Khan also discovered Waqar Younis and unearthed a young Inzamam-ul-Haq during the victorious 1992 World Cup campaign. But his biggest achievement as captain was how he handled Javed Miandad – the best batsman in his team and a feisty character himself.
‘Headstrong and had an eye for talent’
“He was their captain, coach, chief selector everything. I don’t think during his years as Pakistan captain, the establishment could take him on. He had an eye for talent and was extremely headstrong,” former India spinner Maninder Singh, who had played a number of matches against the Pakistan side through ’80s said.
His popularity in India was unmatched in an era when there were no smartphones to take selfies. He was mobbed everywhere he went. Such was his stature that despite having retired after the 1987 World Cup, he was forced to come back from retirement to take a final shot at glory and did he have it. About the politician, no one knows, but Imran Khan the cricketer and a leader would always be revered.