September 18, 2013

When Imran walked on water

Botham's 1981 Ashes has been enshrined in legend, but was it the greatest all-round performance in a single series?
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Imran Khan: runs, wickets, catches, run-outs, captaincy © PA Photos

As an Australian, I found the on-field results in this year's Ashes depressing, and I'm relieved that the pain is over, at least for the moment. However, the greatest joy is that I now won't have to continually see replay after replay of Ian Botham's 1981 Ashes performances. I have bad enough memories of that series without having to be reminded of it incessantly by the English broadcasters.

The constant barrage of old footage of "Botham's Ashes" has prompted me to consider great, sustained all-round performances. Some allrounders are able to dominate a match, but rarely is that level of performance maintained across an entire Test series. While Botham's efforts were admittedly incredible, I immediately thought of Jack Gregory's efforts in the 1920-21 Ashes, in which he scored 442 runs at 73.66, took 23 wickets at 24.17 and set a record for non-wicketkeepers (15 catches) that still stands today. However, after due consideration, I will instead plump for the achievements of one of Botham's contemporaries just a year or so after the 1981 Ashes as the best performance by an allrounder across an entire series.

The early 1980s were an interesting time for cricket. The threats associated with Kerry Packer were now behind the establishment but the rebel tours of South Africa were beginning to rear their head. The changes that World Series Cricket had introduced were starting to penetrate across the world. Limited-overs cricket started to flourish and raised questions about the long-term viability of Test cricket. West Indies were the undisputed champions in both Tests and ODIs, and they were being challenged not by the traditional powerhouses (Australia and England) but by vastly improved sides emerging from India and Pakistan. Players such as Sunil Gavaskar, Javed Miandad, Kapil Dev and Imran Khan had shown that they well and truly belonged on the world stage, with some of their team-mates not too far behind.

Matches between India and Pakistan were intense and driven by their shared history. A combination of wars and other factors meant India and Pakistan had not played each other officially between 1962 and 1978, and the 1982-83 series was only the sixth between the two in the 30 years since the inaugural match in 1952. This six-Test series, held in Pakistan, amid a maelstrom of social, political and sporting pressure, saw Imran produce what is possibly the greatest all-round performance in a series.

The first Test, at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, was affected by rain, and the Indian captain, Gavaskar, decided to risk asking Pakistan to bat first. This move backfired quite substantially, with Pakistan making 485 on the back of Zaheer Abbas' 215. India's batsmen replied with a reasonable 379, but it was a flat track, and a combination of rain and an unresponsive pitch meant the game petered out to a tame draw. Imran began the series positively but fairly quietly, scoring a useful 45 with the bat and taking 3 for 68 in his only opportunity with the ball.

The National Stadium in Karachi hosted the second Test, which commenced on December 23. Imran's decision to bowl was vindicated when India were knocked over for just 169. Bowling with a combination of serious pace and swing, Imran quickly dismissed two of India's key batsmen, Dilip Vengsarkar and Mohinder Amarnath, and finished with 3 for 19 off 12.1 overs. Pakistan's response was prolific: they established a lead of nearly 300 in making 452. Zaheer continued his fine form with 186, while Imran swung his bat for a 34-ball 33 after coming in with the lead already approaching 200. India were then bowled out for 197 and Pakistan won by an innings and 86 runs. Imran was the undoubted star with the ball, taking 8 for 60 in a ferocious display. His fellow quickies - Jalal-ud-din and Sarfraz Nawaz - failed to take a wicket between them.

India batted first in the third Test, in Faisalabad, and made a solid 372 on an unresponsive pitch. Imran was clearly the best bowler on display, taking 6 for 98, while Sarfraz and Sikander Bakht took 1 for 161 between them. Pakistan's batsmen then took full advantage of the conditions, making 652. Zaheer scored "only" 168 and Imran was required to make his first real contribution with the bat. Coming in with the scores approximately level, he smashed 117 off 121 balls, hitting nine fours and five sixes. India lost by ten wickets as Imran again dominated with 5 for 82. His efforts in this game represented only the third time that a player had scored a century and taken five wickets in each innings of a single Test match.

It is perhaps worth reflecting at this point that this was not a "weak" Indian batting line-up. It featured the great Gavaskar, as well as three exceptionally good middle-order players - Vengsarkar, Gundappa Viswanath and Amarnath. They were supported by Sandeep Patil - whose credentials against pace bowling included a high-class 174 against a strong Australian bowling attack of Dennis Lillee, Rod Hogg and Len Pascoe - Kris Srikkanth, and the very handy batting skills of Kapil at No. 7.

However, Imran's bowling was simply outstanding. One delivery in particular highlighted his skill in this series: in the second innings of the Karachi Test, Viswanath, still to get off the mark, shouldered arms to a ball he felt offered no threat, only to be stunned when it swerved back dramatically and smashed into his off stump. It is telling that Imran was swinging both the new and old ball considerably in both directions. He had a number of right-handers caught in the slips and also bowled left-hand batsmen with deliveries that curved significantly back.

The fourth Test was another massive victory for the home team. It was played on a flat deck in Hyderabad, and Pakistan sailed to an innings-and-119-run win. Imran was not even required to bat in Pakistan's first innings of 581 for 3 declared but his bowling stood out again and his 6 for 35 knocked down India for 189. India then limped to 273. Imran (2 for 45) was marginally outbowled for the first time in the series by Sarfraz (4 for 85).

The fifth Test saw a return to Gaddafi Stadium. India had moved to 235 for 3 in response to Pakistan's first innings of 323 when rain ensured the game was called off. The sixth Test, in Karachi, was also a draw, but the main external influence this time was not rain. Imran's 3 for 65 helped restrict India to 393, and Pakistan were controlling the game at 420 for 6 on the fourth day, but rioting broke out after the lunch interval and play was ultimately abandoned for the day.

Imran, 32 not out at the time, was forced to declare overnight in the hope of forcing an unlikely victory, but India managed to bat out the fifth day. Unsurprisingly, the only successful bowler was Imran himself, finishing with 2 for 41.

Statistics are not the sole reason for my selection of Imran's performances over those of Botham. Imran's skills were not limited to batting and bowling; he also fielded exceptionally well

It is interesting to compared Imran's performance in the series with Botham's in the '81 Ashes. Imran's batting summary for the series was 247 runs at 61.75. Botham scored more runs across his series (399) but at a much lower average of 36.27, and he batted 12 times to Imran's five. It is only fair to point out that Imran's batting average of 61.75 was exceeded by Miandad, Mudassar Nazar and Zaheer, but it was still better than those of quality batsmen such as Mohsin Khan and Saleem Malik. Similarly, Botham's batting average was exceeded by four of his team-mates, but was better than those of luminaries such as Geoff Boycott, Mike Gatting, Graham Gooch and David Gower.

Imran took 40 wickets at 13.95, while Botham managed 34 at 20.58. Imran bowled a total of 1339 balls in the series, while Botham bowled 1635, which represents nearly 50 overs more for six wickets fewer. If Imran had bowled as many deliveries as Botham did, and managed to sustain his strike rate, he would have equalled SF Barnes' record of 49 wickets in a series*.

While Botham took the most wickets for England in the 1981 Ashes, his strike rate was bettered by Graham Dilley. In the Pakistan team, the next best strike rate was by Sarfraz, at nearly 80 balls per wicket compared to Imran's 33. Sarfraz's average was also the next best, at 33 runs per wicket, which was about 2.5 times greater than Imran's 13.95. The great Kapil Dev took 24 wickets at nearly 35 on the same pitches as Imran, while no other Pakistan bowler came anywhere near his series total. In contrast, in 1981, the Australians Terry Alderman and Lillee both passed Botham's series tally with 42 and 39 wickets respectively.

However, statistics are not the sole reason for my selection of Imran's performances over those of Botham. Imran's skills were not limited to batting and bowling; he also fielded exceptionally well. One highlight was his run-out of Gavaskar in the first innings of the second Test. Gavaskar played a ball towards mid-on and started down the pitch, looking to pinch a single; Imran changed direction in his follow-through, sprinted across to intercept the ball and threw the stumps down at the batsman's end with Gavaskar desperately trying but failing to regain his ground. It was this type of effort that underpinned one of the biggest factors that ultimately swung my vote: Imran was an inspirational captain and led from the front throughout.

Botham started off the 1981 series as captain, and ignominiously resigned after the second Test, just before he would have been sacked. In contrast, Imran revelled in the pressure of leadership, and successfully melded a team of very strong personalities such as Javed and Zaheer, who had their own captaincy aspirations. The pressure on the national captain of Pakistan not to lose to India must be, at the very least, equivalent to that facing an England captain in an Ashes series. Imran rose to that challenge and performed at an astonishingly consistent level throughout the series. Botham, in contrast, had a relatively poor start to his series before really hitting his straps in the third, fourth and fifth Tests.

Both players are clearly legends, and among the greatest allrounders of all time. However, to my mind, Imran pips Botham in the greatest individual performance across a series. Having said that, I am now thinking that perhaps the efforts of Jack Gregory deserve a closer look.

* Syd Barnes took 49 wickets against South Africa in the 1913-14 series. This was a five-Test series and Barnes didn't even play in the final match, establishing his now very long-standing record in just the first four games.

Stuart Wark works at the University of New England as a research fellow

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • avmd on September 19, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    Great article. The nation which once ruled the hockey and squash world, was one of the top team in crickets with legends like Imran, Wasim and Waqar now has hit rock bottom in all three sports. All we have left with now is to cherish the old memories like Imran's heroic performance in that particular series. Not many people knew that the stress fracture which kept Imran from bowling for nearly 18 months was diagnosed right in the middle of the series and he was told by doctors not to bowl for about three months otherwise recovery would take years. But, Imran was so determined to win the series, he ignored the advice knowing the price he eventually paid by unable to bowl at his peak for two years. Wow, what a great patriotic, and a sporting hero, a real legend.

  • CricketChat on September 18, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    No praise is too high for Imran. I don't know of any other player in modern era (post 1970) who after after a great bowling career, successfully turned himself into a top class batsmen that could walk into any of the top teams on batting skill alone. As mentioned in this article, he was a very good fielder and astute captain who commanded respect from his teammates and opponents alike. Best player to come out of Pak before and since.

  • on September 18, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    I would personally have put Imran as one of the 5 players of the 20th century, instead of Warne. Can play very straight and hit sixers when required. What a rousing run-up and release! Skillful as he is, one needs to consider 3 test series; 77/78, when Pakistan beat India 2/0, though India batted as well as they could. 79/80 in India, when India beat Pakistan 2/0, with Imran firing fitfully. Then this series in 82/83, where India would have seen the new ball off and Imran would return for his second spell and cut through the batting.

  • DeepakShah on September 18, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    Very well written Stuart. I watched every single ball of that series. And even as an Indian, I have to admit that Imran was incredible. For years after that series, I used to be vilified by friends as being an Imran Khan Fan in spite of being Indian. It was this very series that made me want to become like Imran. By the way, just one quibble with your article. You mention how he brought the ball in to the left-handers. Actually, India did not have a top or middle order left handed batsman in that series. Between Surinder Amarnath in 1978 and WV Raman in 1988, the only left-handers to play for India were bowling all-rounders like Karsan Ghavri, and the absolute bunny Dilip Doshi who incidentally played in that series.

  • on September 25, 2013, 11:16 GMT

    The author had forgotten about the batting ability of Imran and Botham against best pace bowlers of that era that's one and only windies pace .The great kapil alone stood there and scored even in West Indies and hence should be considered along with 1982 series exploits in England

  • Cool_Jeeves on September 19, 2013, 16:43 GMT

    Davidson did not score a century but 44 and 80 in the tied test. But Botham and Imrsn scored centuries. Botham's performance were very good in the 1979-80 series in Australia plus jubilee test in india. If I remember, they were consecutive tests and Botham put in titanic performances throughout.

    But the greatest performance across a series ever has to be Sobers in England in 1966. Was captain, won all 5 tosses, held 10 catches, took 20 wickets at 20, scored 722 runs at 103, and his team won an away series 3-1.

    Imran's debut series in England was also a very fine performance by him as well as Botham, but Imran was the better of the two.

  • The_other_side on September 19, 2013, 14:01 GMT

    No question Imran was incredible in that series. He was indeed at the peak of his prowess. But it is more of Imran the bowler that made the difference. The 100 he scored was on a flat track... But sport remembers comebacks more fondly than one sided demolitions. Botham series is a classic case of English lion roaring when its back was against the wall. Further Botham delivered with the bat and ball when it was required and made it matter. And Finally Mr Wark, Sir, Alan Davidson did not score a century! he scored 100 runs in the test you mentioned in your article. His highest score was 80 in that test.

  • on September 19, 2013, 14:00 GMT

    Imran was much more athletic and a way better captain than Botham. Give me Hadlee as well over Botham....Botham declined after 1987 whilst Hadlee and Imran were strong to the end.

  • pardo on September 19, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    As a New Zealander who witnessed the infamous 81 West Indies tour, I know I don't have much a leg to stand on about umpiring standards in the pre neutral days but, brilliant as Imran was, it's worth noting that he got 5 lbw decisions in that test and India got none - and that one of the umpires was Shakeel Khan who was at the other end during the Gatting/Shakor Rana match. It's probably true that all the great bowlers of the 70s/80s (with the probably exception of the English) got the rub of the green at home but 5-0 for LBWs is a bit odd.

    Mind you, even with neutral umps I suspect Imran would have got a few more LBWs if hawkeye had been around - undoubtedly a great player and in my side instead of Botham any day.

  • bvchoksi on September 19, 2013, 11:42 GMT

    I would rate Imran Khan as the best all rounder of the 80s, probably second best all-time after Sir Garry Sobers.

    However, you have to put his performance on the 82/83 tour in perspective, taking into consideration the quality of the umpiring.

    Over the 6 Tests played, Indian bowlers got a total of 5 LBW decisions in their favour against 21 for the Pakistani bowlers. Imran Khan alone got 12 LBW decisions in his favour.

    On the other hand, Botham played that Ashes series in England where the quality of local umpiring was always considered fair.

  • avmd on September 19, 2013, 2:11 GMT

    Great article. The nation which once ruled the hockey and squash world, was one of the top team in crickets with legends like Imran, Wasim and Waqar now has hit rock bottom in all three sports. All we have left with now is to cherish the old memories like Imran's heroic performance in that particular series. Not many people knew that the stress fracture which kept Imran from bowling for nearly 18 months was diagnosed right in the middle of the series and he was told by doctors not to bowl for about three months otherwise recovery would take years. But, Imran was so determined to win the series, he ignored the advice knowing the price he eventually paid by unable to bowl at his peak for two years. Wow, what a great patriotic, and a sporting hero, a real legend.

  • CricketChat on September 18, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    No praise is too high for Imran. I don't know of any other player in modern era (post 1970) who after after a great bowling career, successfully turned himself into a top class batsmen that could walk into any of the top teams on batting skill alone. As mentioned in this article, he was a very good fielder and astute captain who commanded respect from his teammates and opponents alike. Best player to come out of Pak before and since.

  • on September 18, 2013, 11:05 GMT

    I would personally have put Imran as one of the 5 players of the 20th century, instead of Warne. Can play very straight and hit sixers when required. What a rousing run-up and release! Skillful as he is, one needs to consider 3 test series; 77/78, when Pakistan beat India 2/0, though India batted as well as they could. 79/80 in India, when India beat Pakistan 2/0, with Imran firing fitfully. Then this series in 82/83, where India would have seen the new ball off and Imran would return for his second spell and cut through the batting.

  • DeepakShah on September 18, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    Very well written Stuart. I watched every single ball of that series. And even as an Indian, I have to admit that Imran was incredible. For years after that series, I used to be vilified by friends as being an Imran Khan Fan in spite of being Indian. It was this very series that made me want to become like Imran. By the way, just one quibble with your article. You mention how he brought the ball in to the left-handers. Actually, India did not have a top or middle order left handed batsman in that series. Between Surinder Amarnath in 1978 and WV Raman in 1988, the only left-handers to play for India were bowling all-rounders like Karsan Ghavri, and the absolute bunny Dilip Doshi who incidentally played in that series.

  • on September 25, 2013, 11:16 GMT

    The author had forgotten about the batting ability of Imran and Botham against best pace bowlers of that era that's one and only windies pace .The great kapil alone stood there and scored even in West Indies and hence should be considered along with 1982 series exploits in England

  • Cool_Jeeves on September 19, 2013, 16:43 GMT

    Davidson did not score a century but 44 and 80 in the tied test. But Botham and Imrsn scored centuries. Botham's performance were very good in the 1979-80 series in Australia plus jubilee test in india. If I remember, they were consecutive tests and Botham put in titanic performances throughout.

    But the greatest performance across a series ever has to be Sobers in England in 1966. Was captain, won all 5 tosses, held 10 catches, took 20 wickets at 20, scored 722 runs at 103, and his team won an away series 3-1.

    Imran's debut series in England was also a very fine performance by him as well as Botham, but Imran was the better of the two.

  • The_other_side on September 19, 2013, 14:01 GMT

    No question Imran was incredible in that series. He was indeed at the peak of his prowess. But it is more of Imran the bowler that made the difference. The 100 he scored was on a flat track... But sport remembers comebacks more fondly than one sided demolitions. Botham series is a classic case of English lion roaring when its back was against the wall. Further Botham delivered with the bat and ball when it was required and made it matter. And Finally Mr Wark, Sir, Alan Davidson did not score a century! he scored 100 runs in the test you mentioned in your article. His highest score was 80 in that test.

  • on September 19, 2013, 14:00 GMT

    Imran was much more athletic and a way better captain than Botham. Give me Hadlee as well over Botham....Botham declined after 1987 whilst Hadlee and Imran were strong to the end.

  • pardo on September 19, 2013, 12:51 GMT

    As a New Zealander who witnessed the infamous 81 West Indies tour, I know I don't have much a leg to stand on about umpiring standards in the pre neutral days but, brilliant as Imran was, it's worth noting that he got 5 lbw decisions in that test and India got none - and that one of the umpires was Shakeel Khan who was at the other end during the Gatting/Shakor Rana match. It's probably true that all the great bowlers of the 70s/80s (with the probably exception of the English) got the rub of the green at home but 5-0 for LBWs is a bit odd.

    Mind you, even with neutral umps I suspect Imran would have got a few more LBWs if hawkeye had been around - undoubtedly a great player and in my side instead of Botham any day.

  • bvchoksi on September 19, 2013, 11:42 GMT

    I would rate Imran Khan as the best all rounder of the 80s, probably second best all-time after Sir Garry Sobers.

    However, you have to put his performance on the 82/83 tour in perspective, taking into consideration the quality of the umpiring.

    Over the 6 Tests played, Indian bowlers got a total of 5 LBW decisions in their favour against 21 for the Pakistani bowlers. Imran Khan alone got 12 LBW decisions in his favour.

    On the other hand, Botham played that Ashes series in England where the quality of local umpiring was always considered fair.

  • harshthakor on September 19, 2013, 11:28 GMT

    For the title of the best all-rounder of that era it was a photo-finish between Botham and Imran Khan.Botham was marginally better in his peak years from 1977-82 than what Imran was from 1981-88 when he was at his peak.In a single test and series Botham could champion a cause more with both bat and ball like in the 1980 Jubilee test or 1981 Ashes.

    However Imran was more consistent and far greater leader.I would have preferred Imran Khan in the all time world xi to accompany Gary Sobers rather than Botham because fast bowling all-rounders are greater match winners than batting all-rounders.In his peak years Imran overshadowed every great paceman including Hadlee and Marshall.In his last years from 1988-92 he averaged above 50 as a batsman which was remarkable.

    Imran had the aura of an emperor when he strode on the cricket field and could change the complexion of a game more than Tendulkar or Kallis in the modern age.He ranks amongst the best captains of all time.

  • harshthakor on September 19, 2013, 11:18 GMT

    Imran Khan stood out in the cricket world like a collosus.He was a great leader who reminded you of a great military commander leading his army to a series of victories.In his era no cricketer contributed no such to shape the destiny of his nation's cricketing fortunes as Imran did.He was the architect of Pakistan's 1st win in a series in England and India and first test match win in Australia..He also came within inches of leading his country to win the unofficial world test title in the West Indies but dubious umpiring decisions cost Pakistan their first win in a rubber on West Indian soil.With Viv Richards he was the best match-winner after Gary Sobers and from 1981-1988 he was the best allrounder in the world .

    At his peak from 1977-82 where Botham scored over Imran was simultaneously championing the cause with both bat and ball.However Imran won over Botham in overall consistency who overshadowed Botham in both series he played against England on English soil.

  • on September 19, 2013, 9:42 GMT

    A very interesting read and a decent argument for Imran too - but ironically it ends up making the case for Botham in 1981 even stronger. No doubting Imran's achievements in this series - but never at any stage were Pakistan under real pressure from the opposition. In 1981 England were 1-0 down, the Aussies with their latest 'secret weapon' in Terry Alderman were comfortably on top and Botham was at the lowest possible ebb. We all know how dire the 3rd Test was looking - those 500-1 odds were truly astonishing at the time, but totally justified. From such an impossible position he inspired a fightback that is almost without parallel, then went on to lead England to two more victories from very tight situations. With the greatest respect to Imran's ability, I cannot think he ever masterminded and personally inspired such a recovery to victory in any series Pakistan played. One could also argue for Kapil Dev's performances against WI in the 1984 series, when India got a hiding!

  • Mittaraghava on September 19, 2013, 8:38 GMT

    A good article on Imran khan's acheivements.Pakistan team give a challenge to strongest teams world over during 2 phases,one under the captaincy of Imran Khin in the 80's and second under the capataincy of Mustaq Mohammad in 70's.A memorable Imran series was the tour to WI for 3 tests seriesin 1988.WI were the best in the world,all other sides in the world were blow out of sight andImran's team managed a drawn series. Imran rattled Wi in the 1st test with7 and 4 wickets in 1st and 2nd innings and Pak. won the test,2nd test was a fighting draw from both sides,Imran taking 5 and 4 wickets in 1st and 2nd innings the 3rd test was a test for WI ego,pride and their batting and bowling strength and WI won the test with Imran taking 3 wickets in 1st innngs and none in the 2nd inngs.This series was one of the most exciting to see the spirited Imran Khan's team challenge the world dominating WI team.Hence even today Wi great players take the name of Imran with great praise and respect.

  • on September 19, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    imran the greatest fastbowling allrounder without a doubt...!

  • LahorePak on September 19, 2013, 8:28 GMT

    @ Amudhavan Arun, I think u forgot to mention, it was great Imran who asked for nautrul impirining, after having to deal with Indian impires.

  • Waqs77 on September 19, 2013, 6:45 GMT

    I am not lucky enough to see The Great Sir Imran Khan playing live. But i must add one thing that his achievments did not just contained to cricket as we can see now he has taken himself to a level where more people than his cricketing career love him and that reflects the success story of his career. He was a a great leader and he is even greater now followed by an entire nation. He is a charisma born in centuries. Love you Sir, Good bless you and may God give you strengths and success for the rest of your life.

  • heartbreakerz on September 19, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    Imran was the best allrounder in his generation and maybe the 2nd best of all time after Sobers

  • heartbreakerz on September 19, 2013, 6:12 GMT

    all those indians who are moaning about the umpiring decisions in the 1983 series, don't forget how your local indian umpires gifted kumble a 10 wkt-haul against Pak and they also had a big role to play in india's win against Aus in 2001 series...so don't talk as if only Pak umpires gave wrong decisions because in those days more often than not umpiring was biased in the favour of home team.

  • humdrum on September 19, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    Since the writer has produced the stats,how about telling us how many tail end wickets the great Imran has taken in this series and all others? Am compiling data on this and other parameters and I assure you,he doesn't come out smelling of roses,as you would have the readers believe. And for the record,I watched that series too,and if you were to watch it again,key decisions at key moments all went against India, not to speak of outright shockers. These all played a part in those 40 wickets. How come such a great cricketer could never produce a similar show, home or away ? Consistency is always the hallmark of greatness, and Wasim Akram is easily the best to have come out of Pakistan.

  • on September 19, 2013, 4:19 GMT

    In 1978 and 1983. India eleven was playing against Pakistan 13. I remember when the ball hits the pad you were gone it was otherwise for Pakistan.

  • on September 19, 2013, 2:22 GMT

    Haven't had a chance to see the great Sobers, but of all the all-rounders I have seen, Imran remains the Emperor. There's not an iota of doubt about it.

    However, any home series win in Pak would need to be taken with a pinch of a salt given the atrociously biased umpiring. In those days, Pak Umpires were probably the leading wicket takers in the world for dubious decisions.

  • on September 19, 2013, 1:03 GMT

    For two thirds of his career, Imran batted @ a shade under 50, while taking 4.5 wickets a test @ a shade over 20. He was McGrath and Martyn rolled into one. As such, he is the real all rounder far ahead of Kallis and Sobers, who were really Genius with bat but very useful with the ball. Neither would make the team purely as a bowler. Imran would make the team Either with the ball Or the bat. The greatest, the only comparison being the great Adam Gilchrist.

  • on September 19, 2013, 0:26 GMT

    I remember following the 1981 series. I don't think anyone would really say that Botham's performance was the BEST ever by a cricketer. It was, in some ways, the most spectacular. The series seemed to be as good as over when he suddenly turned things around with a century. Australia then seemed destined to win the 4th test before his spectacular bowling pulled that test around to England. He made several other big contributions.

    I am English and a Botham supporter (whenever he was in the team, there was always hope of the impossible), but if you lined the world's players up and gave me the job of making the first pick , in the early 80s it would have been Imran. His figures during his peak years were superb. I remember Sobers in 66 as well, and would rate his batting better than Imran's, but bowlers win matches and Imran at his peak beats Sobers hands down.

  • on September 19, 2013, 0:26 GMT

    Stuart, A minor correction: there are only two players to have scored a century and taken 5 wickets in each innings. I understand what you are trying to say here is that out of two all round performances that came within 2 years, Imran's was better, lets not get into greatest of all time. Imran's bowling performance in the series was one of the greatest that I have seen. Now Botham's batting or bowling in isolation in that series of 81 won't feature in any of my lists but his all round performance certainly will. I can write a book about why Both's was better but I would leave you with this thought... If Imran had not scored a single run and had taken only a few wickets, Pakistan would not have lost the series, probably had won 1-0 but if Botham had an ordinary series, England would have done great to lose 1-3.

  • SL-USA-Lions on September 19, 2013, 0:14 GMT

    A great CRICKETER... A far greater HUMAN BEING... Imran we salute everything about you. Why don't we have cricketers like him anymore?

    There is this 3 minute on YouTube... Watch if you could...

    West Indies vs. Pakistan... An ODI in Sharjah late 80's maybe. Viv hits Imran across the line for a massive six... Imran looks amazed with his hands on his hips at the bowlers end. Viv walks down the pitch like a Boss and both exchange pleasantries... (No Staring down, Cursing or blowing up) Two greats in action... This is what cricket should be... We need Giants like this back in the cricket field. WE miss you. Thank you for the memories...

  • RogerC on September 18, 2013, 23:38 GMT

    Imran was a better bowler, batsman and captain than Botham. However, I think Botham was one of the best fielders the world has seen among fast bowlers. He was outstanding in the slips cordon where very few fast bowlers even dare to stand. His catching skills are much superior to Imran. Not taking anything away from Imran, but let's give credit where its due.

  • on September 18, 2013, 23:22 GMT

    Imran, a great bowler, a great all rounder, a legend captain, and above all a great human being. It is said for a good sportsman u have to be a good human being first, with his creation of first ever cancer hospital ( free for poor people) he proved that. Now coming back to the discussion on board, Botham or Imran. I say Imran has an upper hand in that especially on the basis of captaincy. It is not easy to lead a team like Pakistan, with lots of talent but lack of temperament or consistency. Imran lead a young but talented team to be the world champions. Botham doesn't have that kind of legacy or honour. Imran made players literally, which kept on winning matches for Pakistan for next 15 years. Maybe only great Clive, the west indies captain have that legacy. Regarding individual series, Imran started on a fantastic note with his captaincy in 1983 England tour, where he was unfortunate not to win the series. Overall, I say Imran has an upper hand over Botham simply on his captaincy.

  • on September 18, 2013, 20:39 GMT

    Imran Khan is the most the legendary cricket player & leader I have seen in my life. He leaves everyone else in the dust.

  • Desihungama on September 18, 2013, 18:51 GMT

    Imran developed stress factor in his foot-shin after the series and was out for over two years and the most amazing thing about him that he came back as a better cricketer with improved batting and smart bowling thereafter. It's a shame he is from Sub-Continent. Had he been from Australia or England, we would be referring to him as Sir Imran Khan.

  • on September 18, 2013, 18:31 GMT

    Nice article! As you point out, stats shouldn't be the only criteria, which works in Botham's favor, because one of the innings he played in that series was once-in-a-lifetime stuff. But, as you also said, Imran's success at captaincy seems to be in total contrast to Botham's.

    What about Sobers in England '66? 723 runs and 26 wickets. Wish I had seen that live!

  • PoochiFox on September 18, 2013, 16:09 GMT

    why is there even a comparison? imran is head and shoulders above and beyond botham. (probably) with the exception of kallis and sobers, imran has been the best all rounder the game has ever seen. imran has seen great contemporaries in hadlee, botham and kapil --- but there is no equal to imran. he dominated the game with the ball and the bat. none have ever been able to do that (again, with the possible exception of kallis and sobers)

  • J751 on September 18, 2013, 15:30 GMT

    A most memorable series.The spell that stands out for me is when he clean bowled both Vishwanath and Gavaskar in Karachi and made mincemeat of a formidable batting line up.Imran paid a price for his efforts,though,and suffered a stress fracture which led to a lengthy interruption of his international career.

  • on September 18, 2013, 14:09 GMT

    Garry Sobers v England, 1966, springs to mind

  • on September 18, 2013, 13:43 GMT

    One more thing to mention is the nature of pitches on which Imran bowled. He bowled on unresponsive, dusty pitches to Botham's responsive and seaming wickets.

  • nareshgb1 on September 18, 2013, 13:18 GMT

    It was a great bowling performance no doubt by Imran in that series - the batting and captaincy do not matter. Imran was hardly exposed to the kind of batting situations Botham was in 1981 - so Botham;s batting was far superior and defining of outcomes. As for captaincy - again, the thing that mattered most was - Imran bowled great - Kapil did not (at least not until the series was already lost 3-0 - talk about weird). Combined with the fact that Pakistan were playing at home, I dont think Imran;s captaincy was much challenged. Not to say that Imran was not a great captain - possibly the only guy who led a team to challenge WI in WI when they were still near their peak (in 1988).

  • ynotlleb on September 18, 2013, 12:08 GMT

    Some players thrive under the pressure of captaincy and some don't. It would be interesting to compare Botham's figures for Tests 3-6 of the 1981 Ashes with Imran Khan against India. Botham scored two of the three centuries for England in that series, if Botham had been batting number 6 following Javed Miandad and Zaheer Abbas I suspect England would not have been following on at Headingley 1981. Botham was a great fielder as well as batsman and bowler. Still Imran was a great player, possibly Pakistan's greatest ever, what would Pakistan give for a player like him today?

  • abd78 on September 18, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    Very good work Mr. Stuart Wark. I would like you to also look at the series between England & Pakistan played in 1982-83 and 1987 and Compare Imran Khan with Ian Botham Head to Head. You will find Imran Khan way ahead in both series. Accidently the 1982-83 series between England and Pakistan which was played in England was the first series as Captain of Imran Khan.

  • balajik1968 on September 18, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    That ball to Viswanath ended his career. Though he played the rest of the series, he was never selected for India again. In a way, India's tour of England, 6 months before, and the tour to West Indies immediately after meant that India got the best possible preparation for the World Cup 1983. By then the team having been subject to a non-stop barrage of pace and was battle hardened, and that helped them go all the way.

  • on September 18, 2013, 10:57 GMT

    Why no one noticed that in that series Imran bowled so well on dead flat wickets like of Qaddafi, Karachi and Faisalabad Stadiums.

  • harshthakor on September 18, 2013, 10:44 GMT

    Stuart,I wish you could also remember the 1982 series in England where Imran 's herculean efforts came so close to Pakistan winning their 1st series in England when dubious umpiring decisions cost Pakistan their 1st series rubber in England.At Edbaston and Leeds Imran almost single-handedly carried the mantle.In 1987 he almost re-incarnated his 1982 efforts by himself wining Pakistan their 1st series in England with his 10 wicket haul at Leeds and century at the Oval.

    To me arguably the best all-round effort was by Sir Garfield Sobers for Rest of the World in England in 1970 when he scored 583 runs and captured 21 wickets in 4 games.Sobers simply ruled the cricket world like an emperor dictating his knights.Almost on par was Sober's 1966 efforts in England when he scored 722 runs and captured 20 wickets.

    I would also consider Keith Millers 1954 Ashes performance and series in West Indies in 1955.

  • shillingsworth on September 18, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    A case where the statistics don't tell the full story - no quibbles with Imran's bowling performances but, as has already been noted, he wasn't required to make runs following the failure of the top order, as Botham was. I'd rank Flintoff's 2005 Ashes ahead of Botham in 1981 - stronger opposition (have there been any better Australian sides?) and more consistent contributions through the series.

  • on September 18, 2013, 8:28 GMT

    Imran Khan should given the title of Sir because he is well ahead of Ian Botham

  • on September 18, 2013, 8:15 GMT

    Mr sandeep do u know anything about cricket dnt write here

  • harshthakor on September 18, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    No doubt Imran Khan's performances were phenomenal and bowling definitely better but Pakistan was not placed in half as precarious a situation as England were placed in before Botham's herculean efforts.In Karachi,Hyderabad and Faisalabad the likes of batsmen like Zaheer Abbas,Javed Miandad and Mudassar Nazar gave the platform for Imran Khan to bowl his legendary match-winning spells.Even his century was scored when Zaheer , Miandad and Salim Malik had already scored centuries.What we have to consider is Botham's aggreate and average of runs and wickets from the 3rd to the 6th test match.,when he was relived from captaincy.He scored 365 runs at 52.14 and took 28 wickets at 19.68.Australia would have won the series 4-0 and not lost it 3-1 had it not been for Ian Botham.He literally revived a sinking ship.Botham made the impact of a Greek God which statistics can never truly illustrate.

  • on September 18, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    Let not involve into unnecessary discussions - it can be true same way in India - Just a correction, it was Imran Khan himself who not only purposed the idea of Nuetral Umpires but made sure to get it implemented during his playing days and remain equally relevent to the game despite of his "achilles" heel injury. Just to add that it was Imran and Bottham both were together in the 1992 world Cup - both at the twilight of their career - and the result World of Cricket knows which was the most inspiring win against so many odds - not to take way the 1983 feast of Great Kapil Dev - Lets get out of such things it was treat to watch the Imrans, the Marshals, the Rechirds, the Gowers, the Chapples, the Bothams, the Lillies, the Govaskars the Kaples, the Tendulkers, the Hydlees, the Laras, the Crows, the Ws and what not - we are greatful to the entertainment and flair they brought to the game by bringing the game to a repute what was the dawn of Modern Cricket.

  • humi_cric on September 18, 2013, 8:04 GMT

    @Sandip Sinharay, Just check the records and old news papers, Imran Khan was the first one who raised the voice to have neutral umpires. Regarding Patriotic umpiring, just check the level of umpiring in Ind-Pak 1987 series at India. Just be careful in selection of your words while commenting on other countries hero's.

  • SirEngland on September 18, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    @Sandip Sinharay: So why didn't India have such performers with your patriotic umpires who were well renowned to be biased and incompetent?

  • its.rachit on September 18, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    you forgot Gary Sobers .... 700 odd runs and 20 wickets vs england...

  • harshthakor on September 18, 2013, 7:56 GMT

    I have critically seen both the series on T.V and will always still rate Ian Botham's performance in the 1981 Ashes in a differentleague -something the great Gary Sobers would be proud to emulate.

    What the author fails to understand is the situation Botham faced when giving his classic performances.His 149 n.o at Leeds in the 3rd test was scored when England were 1-0 down in the series and the match was all but lost with England at 133-7 who faced a 227 run deficit in the 1st innings and were following on.In Birmingham in the 4th test Australia were cruising home to the target of 151 runs for victory at 114-5 before Botham captured 5 wickets for one run to steal the game for England.At Old Trafford he came in at 104-5 ,205 runs ahead and his 118 virtually set the seal on the Ashes .Imran. bowled brilliantly in spells at Karachi and Hyderabad and also batted consistently but did not face the situations Botham faced who literally ressurected England from the grave.

  • becham100 on September 18, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    Gavaskar himself said that Imran was bowling as quick as anyone, he had faced, in that series. It's not about india anyway. Why do you guys always have to get your nose into everything. Thank God you didn't bring in any Sachin reference :P

  • on September 18, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    Imran khan is a legend !

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on September 18, 2013, 6:53 GMT

    The challenges confronting an ashes captain are not even comparable to that ones that players involved in India-Pakistan games faced. An ashes captain's worst fear was bad press and/or vitriol from former players. Sub-continental players had the fear of having their homes vandalised. The threat was physical. Thank God those days are now past.

  • muzika_tchaikovskogo on September 18, 2013, 6:53 GMT

    The challenges confronting an ashes captain are not even comparable to that ones that players involved in India-Pakistan games faced. An ashes captain's worst fear was bad press and/or vitriol from former players. Sub-continental players had the fear of having their homes vandalised. The threat was physical. Thank God those days are now past.

  • on September 18, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    Imran khan is a legend !

  • becham100 on September 18, 2013, 7:55 GMT

    Gavaskar himself said that Imran was bowling as quick as anyone, he had faced, in that series. It's not about india anyway. Why do you guys always have to get your nose into everything. Thank God you didn't bring in any Sachin reference :P

  • harshthakor on September 18, 2013, 7:56 GMT

    I have critically seen both the series on T.V and will always still rate Ian Botham's performance in the 1981 Ashes in a differentleague -something the great Gary Sobers would be proud to emulate.

    What the author fails to understand is the situation Botham faced when giving his classic performances.His 149 n.o at Leeds in the 3rd test was scored when England were 1-0 down in the series and the match was all but lost with England at 133-7 who faced a 227 run deficit in the 1st innings and were following on.In Birmingham in the 4th test Australia were cruising home to the target of 151 runs for victory at 114-5 before Botham captured 5 wickets for one run to steal the game for England.At Old Trafford he came in at 104-5 ,205 runs ahead and his 118 virtually set the seal on the Ashes .Imran. bowled brilliantly in spells at Karachi and Hyderabad and also batted consistently but did not face the situations Botham faced who literally ressurected England from the grave.

  • its.rachit on September 18, 2013, 7:58 GMT

    you forgot Gary Sobers .... 700 odd runs and 20 wickets vs england...

  • SirEngland on September 18, 2013, 8:03 GMT

    @Sandip Sinharay: So why didn't India have such performers with your patriotic umpires who were well renowned to be biased and incompetent?

  • humi_cric on September 18, 2013, 8:04 GMT

    @Sandip Sinharay, Just check the records and old news papers, Imran Khan was the first one who raised the voice to have neutral umpires. Regarding Patriotic umpiring, just check the level of umpiring in Ind-Pak 1987 series at India. Just be careful in selection of your words while commenting on other countries hero's.

  • on September 18, 2013, 8:05 GMT

    Let not involve into unnecessary discussions - it can be true same way in India - Just a correction, it was Imran Khan himself who not only purposed the idea of Nuetral Umpires but made sure to get it implemented during his playing days and remain equally relevent to the game despite of his "achilles" heel injury. Just to add that it was Imran and Bottham both were together in the 1992 world Cup - both at the twilight of their career - and the result World of Cricket knows which was the most inspiring win against so many odds - not to take way the 1983 feast of Great Kapil Dev - Lets get out of such things it was treat to watch the Imrans, the Marshals, the Rechirds, the Gowers, the Chapples, the Bothams, the Lillies, the Govaskars the Kaples, the Tendulkers, the Hydlees, the Laras, the Crows, the Ws and what not - we are greatful to the entertainment and flair they brought to the game by bringing the game to a repute what was the dawn of Modern Cricket.

  • harshthakor on September 18, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    No doubt Imran Khan's performances were phenomenal and bowling definitely better but Pakistan was not placed in half as precarious a situation as England were placed in before Botham's herculean efforts.In Karachi,Hyderabad and Faisalabad the likes of batsmen like Zaheer Abbas,Javed Miandad and Mudassar Nazar gave the platform for Imran Khan to bowl his legendary match-winning spells.Even his century was scored when Zaheer , Miandad and Salim Malik had already scored centuries.What we have to consider is Botham's aggreate and average of runs and wickets from the 3rd to the 6th test match.,when he was relived from captaincy.He scored 365 runs at 52.14 and took 28 wickets at 19.68.Australia would have won the series 4-0 and not lost it 3-1 had it not been for Ian Botham.He literally revived a sinking ship.Botham made the impact of a Greek God which statistics can never truly illustrate.

  • on September 18, 2013, 8:15 GMT

    Mr sandeep do u know anything about cricket dnt write here