Shahid Afridi on Imran Khan November 19, 2008

Style and substance

ESPNcricinfo staff
The man who made Pakistan believe in themselves
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Imran kept his team going in the 1992 World Cup, and eventually they went all the way © Getty Images

I started playing cricket because of Imran Khan.

My admiration for him took root when I watched him on television for the first time. He happened to look quite similar to my elder brother, who also tried hard to do everything as Imran used to do. The presence of another fan in the house added to the aura. It made Imran look bigger and better than anything else in the world.

As I grew older I realised that Imran's outlook on the game was all about aggression. His willingness to push himself to the limits against all odds made him an icon for me. He definitely stood apart in that Pakistan team.

Wasim Akram and Inzamam-ul-Haq often told us youngsters about how Imran kept everybody going after some really bad defeats and heartbreaking moments during the 1992 World Cup.

I met him for the first time when he asked Saeed Anwar and me to come to his residence in 1997. I was numbed to see him right in front of me. I have met several famous personalities and celebrities in my life but none came close to Imran in style and elegance. I still vividly remember what he told me: "You are very gifted. Have confidence in your ability and play as you want to."

His personality, all-round abilities, and the control he exercised on the ground as a leader were inspirational. All in all, everything about him was special.

As told to Syed Ahsan Ali