New Delhi: Leading the race to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan will always be first and foremost the enigmatic ‘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.
Perhaps Sanjay Manjrekar, in his critically acclaimed 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.
“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 told PTI.
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.
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.
Akram became the finest exponent of reverse swing and learnt the then considered ‘dark art’ from his captain, who had learnt it from Sarfraz Nawaz.
Imran had an eye for talent. During one afternoon, he happened to switch on the TV and a domestic match was on. What caught his attention was a young fast bowler with a slinging action.
He immediately called up PCB officials to enquire about the boy and was told that his name is Waqar Younis. The rest was history.