Imran Khan – Indisputably Pakistan’s Greatest Cricketer

Imran Ahmad Khan Niazi was born on November 25, 1952, in Lahore, in a Pashtun family. Imran Khan is indisputably Pakistan’s greatest cricketer. As an all-rounder, he bears comparison with the best there have ever been, a skillful fast bowler and resourceful batsman with a solid defense. But in all of them, he was such a great leader that he really stood out. If you look at the history of Pakistan cricket, it shows that Pakistan is a notoriously difficult team to captain.
But he had the massive charisma and stature to unify them and drive them to play above themselves, and that is quite a talent. His finest hour was undoubtedly guiding Pakistan to their first World Cup triumph in 1992, top-scoring with 72 in the final against England at MCG in front of 87k spectators. Imran’s famously roared his team earlier in the tournament when their hopes hung by a thread to fight ‘like cornered tigers’.
But he has to his name several other outstanding achievements. Imran Khan led Pakistan to their first Test series wins in both India 1986-87 – obviously a huge thing in his country, and England (1987). He also led Pakistan to three drawn series in a row against the powerful West Indies side when they were at the height of their game. Pakistan, in fact, was the first side to seriously challenge West Indian supremacy.
When they won the test match in Guyana in 1988, it was the first time in ten years that the West Indies had lost a home test. The major contribution of Imran Khan was when he took 11 wickets in the game. In his career, Imran claimed 80 wickets at 21.18 apiece against the West Indies, an incredible record given how strong they were at the time.
He scored some important runs against them too, notably in his final series against the West Indies in 1990–91, when he averaged 50.33 (his overall average against the West Indies was 27.67). Imran, who led Pakistan on and off for ten years from 1982 to 1992, mentored some fine players during that period, notably fast bowlers Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, and Aaqib Javed.
Especially the two W’s who swung the ball at a pace even greater than he did. Imran had the bearing of a leader, and for the most part, the players followed. Captaincy elevated his game to a striking degree, averaging 50.55 with the bat and 19.90 with the ball. He turned himself into a considerable bowler with an astonishing record inside Pakistan, where visiting fast bowlers tended to find life desperately hard.
Imran himself took 163 wickets at 19.20 apiece there, a better record than he had elsewhere (his overall record was a hugely impressive 362 wickets in 88 Tests at 22.81 each; no one had taken more for Pakistan at the time he retired). Some of the famous players never faced him in Pakistan, as he was nursing a stress fracture that prevented him from bowling for the best part of two years when he toured there in 1983–84.
England encountered him in 1982 and 1987, and he was a major force both times. In three Tests in 1982, when we were perhaps a little fortunate to win the series 2–1, he scored 212 runs and took 21 wickets. However, he came to England with a passion to beat England in 1987. And he led the Pakistani side to do it for the first time.
In that series, he again took 21 wickets and was the match-winner with the ball in the one game that had a positive outcome at Headingly Leeds. Imran Khan bowled immaculately to take seven for 40 in the second inning.  Imran, who was at Oxford in the early 1970s and from there joined Worcestershire, started out as a brisk medium-pacer, but through determination and intelligence, he turned himself into a genuine fast bowler of quality. His two cousins, Majid Khan and Javed Burki, also led the Pakistan cricket team in the 1960s and 1970s.
Many cricketers remember facing him in one of their earliest games for Leicestershire, around the time he was stepping up his pace. It was the day after David Gower took an early exit from university, and we were playing a Benson & Hedges Cup quarter-final at Worcester on a good old New Road pitch with pace and bounce. Gower was caught slipping off him, and the ball carried a long way behind me, always a good measure of someone’s speed. At the age of 18, he made a test debut against England at Edgbaston in 1971 but did not take a permanent place due to a below-par performance. Hence, he continued to focus on his education and cricket in England and came back to the side in 1974 on the tour of England.
In county cricket during the period from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s, Imran would have been up there with Mike Procter and Malcolm Marshall as among the best at swinging the ball at pace. Perhaps the thing that completed his education was joining the World Series, from which he emerged a far better bowler, learning from watching and working with so many other fine fast bowlers recruited by Kerry Packer. Imran Khan’s charismatic personality and athletic talent made him a popular celebrity all over the world.
In 1976, Imran took 6 for 63 and 6 for 102, for a match figure of 12 wickets, to lead his country to an 8-wicket win in the 3rdTest at Sydney. This spell surprises the whole Australian team and the Pakistani dressing room. Before that match, he had nine test matches under his belt, 25 wickets, and a heavy average of 43.52. Pakistan was trailing 0-1 in the tough series, but Imran’s hostile bowling spell makes Pakistan a marked ascent in the world of cricket.
In 1980, Imran Khan scored 123 runs in the first Test century against the powerful bowling attack of the West Indies at Lahore. In the years in which he played from 1980 to 1986, on either side of his lay-off for the stress fracture, he was taking his Test wickets at a very cheap cost. In 1982, he returned what remains the best match figures for Pakistan in Tests, 14 for 114 against Sri Lanka in Lahore. The following winter, he took an incredible 40 wickets at 13.95 in six Tests against India. Pakistan bowlers, led by Imran and Sarfraz Nawaz, seemed to understand better than everyone else the mysterious art of swinging the old ball. Therefore, for a batsman, coping with anyone who could move the ball, whether old or new, both ways was always a challenge. You worked hard to get your runs.
The early 1980s was a great era for all-rounders, with Imran Khan, Ian Botham, Richard Hadlee, and Kapil Dev all doing great things and rivaling each other for the status of top dog. At the 1987 Cricket World Cup, Khan decided to quit international cricket. But later, the Pakistani public and Zia-ul-Haq, the Prime Minister, requested that he take back his retirement. He could not reject the public appeal and return to international cricket until 1992.
In terms of bowling, Imran was perhaps consistently the quickest of them. Botham had times where he bowled with the same sort of pace, Hadlee could bowl a sharp delivery if needed but, in comparison, was slightly down on pace overall, and Kapil was brisker medium than brisk. But they all moved the ball in the air, hit the seam, or both, and that was really what made them so difficult to face.
In July 1987, Imran became the first Pakistani bowler to reach the 300-wicket milestone during the 3rd Test vs. England at Lords. If you see the stats, then Imran and Hadlee stood well out in front, averaging around 22, while Botham and Kapil took their wickets at a cost in the high 20s, a real reflection that they were unable to maintain their early brilliance into older age.
Ian Botham probably ranked first as a batsman, but Imran, who began his career down the order, developed into a seriously good top-order player and accordingly ended up with six Test hundreds to his name (Botham made 14, Kapil eight, and Hadlee two). Imran kept on improving and became a world-class batsman in all forms.
Indeed, towards the end of his career, he was playing more as a batsman who bowled than a bowler who batted, and when he scored those runs in the 1992 World Cup final, he was batting at number 3. His test record with the bat was highly respectable, with an average of 37.69, compared well to Botham’s 33.54, Kapil’s 31.05, and Hadlee’s 27.16.
Imran retired from all forms of cricket after winning the 1992 world cup. What gives Imran preeminence in this all-rounder fest is his stature as a leader of a national side that had previously lacked any direction. Since Imran, Pakistan cricket has rarely been stable. Talented players continue to be produced in extraordinary numbers, given the absence of a coherent domestic structure.
But it has been engulfed in more than one corruption scandal, while a terrorist attack on a touring Sri Lanka team in 2009 has forced them since to set up a new home in the Middle East. Imran himself has entered politics in the ambitious hope of addressing his country’s many problems. After retirement, he entered politics and became an outspoken critic of government corruption in Pakistan.
Imran Khan laid the foundation of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in 1996. Imran Khan started a new journey into Pakistani politics and continued their efforts after badly failing in the 2002, and 2007 elections. Eventually, his efforts bring some happiness to his party, making him a strong candidate for the 2013 elections. In one accident, he badly injured his neck and fell from a platform at an election campaign rally. Therefore, his braveness in fighting against corruption & poverty won a plurality of seats in the July 2018 elections. Then he became the 22nd prime minister of Pakistan. He was the first cricketer to be knighted as prime minister of any country. Imran Khan remains a philanthropist in the public eye. He has a great passion to build a cancer hospital after his mother died of those diseases in 1985. His wish was fulfilled by completing Shaukat Khanum Hospital in Lahore in 1994, named after Khan’s mother.
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