Imran's voice still being heard in world cricket

Woorkheri Raman

June 24, 2000

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The Pakistanis are currently engaged in a Test series in Sri Lanka and are doing a good job of avenging their defeat at home against the same opponents. This success was preceded by the hat-trick of one-day triumphs and their consistency has improved in recent months. Wasim Akram completed 400 wickets in Test cricket to become the only bowler to achieve this in both forms of the game.

Whenever Pakistani cricket is discussed, one name invariably gets mentioned for the colossal contribution he has made. This was proved recently when the announcer during the presentation ceremony at the conclusion of a Test match named Imran Khan as the man of the match instead of Wasim Akram. Akram, the modest man that he is said that he did not mind being called as Imran. That is the stature that "Khan Saab" enjoys in Pakistan. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Imran Khan is largely responsible for what Pakistan is today in the cricket world.

Many cricketers today refer to Imran as one who they admire for the manner in which he played the game. His exploits as a cricketer need not be emphasised as too many people in various ways have written about them. It is the contribution that he made to Pakistan's cricket as a captain and a father figure to many youngsters that is mind boggling. He realised that in a side full of talented cricketers, the only way for success was to make them focus fiercely. At times he was more like an army general than a cricket captain was. Then, of course, he knew that success would overshadow his methods and his attitude.

In my early days, I felt that the then Tamil Nadu captain, Venkatraghavan was a very tough cookie. The entire team would be quiet in his presence and on most occasions the captain and the team never were under the same roof. It was during the 1989 tour of Pakistan that I realised that Venky was reasonably mild after seeing the Pakistan dressing room. The reserves of the team felt that practicing was a better option during the lunch break rather than being in Imran's presence. It was a reflection of the awe that the players had of Imran.

Imran's intensity was such that there was no room for any sort of complacency or casualness. He was also one who had to say what he felt, be it his colleagues or the administrators. Pakistan, not too dissimilar to India, was a difficult country to lead and Imran did it majestically. He insisted on his team knowing very well that he had to carry the can if things went wrong. Imran was clever enough to know that either way he had to carry the can and it was better that he had the team of his choice. The results he produced as a captain is something phenomenal and it will take some doing to match it.

The manner in which he picked a few players by seeing in the nets is something of folklore. Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam Ul Haq are a few that come to mind and none can accuse Imran of getting it wrong. The way he kept all these talented cricketers focussed and under control is incredible. During a Test match at Lahore, Akram pointed out to Imran that he was having a groin problem and hence needed a break. The words he used to convince Akram to carry on may not have been taught at Oxford but the objective was achieved.

Towards the evening of his career, Imran played more as a batsman and bowled sparingly but he indulged in making the younger generation of bowlers better. Imran passed on the knowledge he had gained through his experience to his proteges Younis and Akram and they in turn have kept the supply house going. Abdur Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood and Shoaib Akhtar are carrying on the Pakistani tradition of blasting the batsmen out with sheer pace. The Pakistani fast bowlers have made the craft of reverse swing a science and the subtle negative suggestions coming from a few quarters have to be ignored.

Even after his retirement, Imran is still in touch with the game through the media and the candid remarks are coming out with the same intensity as ever. His satisfaction is evident when one reads his praise about Akram for his achievements. His voice may have failed to convince the electoral public of Pakistan but it still makes a lot of people to sit up and listen in the cricket world. His strong defence of the Pakistani cricketers and his denouncement of Ali Bacher are creating ripples in the corridors that matter. The charismatic allrounder is yet to take up administration and one can be sure that it will not be too long before he gets into it. Imran Khan will be respected always by his colleagues as also his counterparts and as the saying goes 'Men may come and men may go' but it would not be a surprise if Imran goes on forever.

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