My two cousins were Test captains. One, Majid Khan, became Test captain while I was playing. One was an Oxford Blue [Javed Burki] and one a Cambridge Blue [Majid]. If you're living up to people who have made it big, you face more pressure than ordinary cricketers. Doors open easier but you're always judged against them. I was always told that I had less talent than them.
I had always had ambitions as a batsman but I was selected as a fast bowler because Pakistan hardly had any. I'd played very few first-class matches, and while in home conditions my slingy action was effective, in England I was totally at sea. I was dropped after that first Test and my team-mates openly told me I'd never get back into the team. But I'd been determined to be a Test cricketer since I was nine and there was never any chance, no matter how many setbacks I faced, that I would give up.
In 1972, Australia came to England. I watched Dennis Lillee bowl and that's when I decided I wanted to be fast. It was the first time I'd seen a genuine fast bowler. Pakistan didn't have any, and I just loved it. It appealed to my instincts, my aggressive way of playing. I was a medium-pacer then and Worcester would encourage me to bowl that because I had a natural inswinger. But I was never satisfied, so if I ever got hit, I would try and bowl faster. That's how I got this aggressive streak, to seek revenge when a batsman tried to dominate, that made me into a fast bowler. I understood the limitations of how I used to bowl, so I completely restructured my bowling action between the ages of 18 and 25. I spent the winter after I finished at Oxford University [1975-76] in Pakistan, and that was really the turning point, because on those wickets you needed to have air speed. My first-class team [Pakistan International Airlines] encouraged me to bowl fast. In a year I'd gained pace and was genuinely fast.
We were bowling bouncers and Jeff Thomson was bowling full-tosses, so there was a slight distortion, although he was probably still quicker. Out of eight balls I bowled, seven were quicker than Holding. I wasn't even at my peak - I was quicker in the next two years. In my peak I got nearly 100 wickets in about a year, 40 in a series against India, but I did my shin bone and missed three of my best years as a bowler.
It was the highest standard I've played. It was the greatest number of fast bowlers ever concentrated in one place - very high-calibre fast bowling. There were people like Tony Greig, Lawrence Rowe, Roy Fredericks, who were outstanding batsmen, but all three of them sank under the barrage of quick bowlers.
The more pressure I took, the stronger I got.
"Waqar was a very strong bowler, not as gifted as Wasim but much stronger physically. Mentally Waqar was very tough. Wasim would give up a little bit when things got down; Waqar would keep coming back"
Batting captains never had a clue about bowlers. Most captaincy is done on the field. As a bowler I was far better equipped to deal with that than batting captains. The only batting captain I rated was Ian Chappell. He had a very good cricket mind and could deal with bowlers well. Apart from him, very few were good because they didn't understand bowlers. Because I was a bowling captain, I taught Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis from scratch. They had hardly played any first-class cricket and I would tell them what to do every ball because I had been through the process myself. I would set their fields and I would tell them what to think.
Wasim was the most talented bowler I have seen apart from Holding. A natural. But he needed the art of taking wickets, fitness and advice, which I gave him. Waqar was a very strong bowler, not as gifted as Wasim, but much stronger physically. Mentally, Waqar was very tough. Wasim would give up a little bit when things got down; Waqar would keep coming back. But Wasim was much more talented.
We were all great competitors. I had my duels with all three. Botham was a better batsman than all of them, Hadlee was a better bowler than the others, and Kapil Dev, at one point, had great batting potential but never developed it. It's not easy at that level to keep developing both skills.
The tougher the competition, the better it got out of me. Sometimes I used to lose motivation against the smaller teams. The lure of beating West Indies in the West Indies was the main reason I came out of retirement [in 1988]. We drew 1-1 but with neutral umpires we would have won 2-0 and I would have retired then because it was my ambition to beat the ultimate team in world cricket. I'm the only captain that never lost to West Indies in three series, all drawn.
Great euphoria. I handpicked that young team and for them to win the World Cup from that impossible situation was a source of such happiness to the Pakistanis. I was so proud of that team. When I retired, I left the best Pakistan team in its history. I was very disappointed that it never achieved its potential. Match-fixing allegations dogged them.
I regret that it distorted the whole discussion on ball-tampering; it took it to another level. I was trying to explain that ball-tampering had always been part of cricket. It was only when you crossed a certain limit that it became cheating. He [journalist Ivo Tennant] asked me point blank and I said, "Yes". I'd played a match at Sussex against Hampshire. It was a dead wicket, petering towards a draw. We had drinks and there was a bottle top. I scratched the ball trying to get resistance on the other side. I said: "That is cheating, you've crossed the line." I was illustrating the point. Then other people jumped in, people trying to settle scores, people taking money from tabloids to say: "I saw Imran ball-tampering". They were such liars and they made money. In that sense, I regretted it.
Cricket is the only captaincy in sport where you face pressure. In Pakistan the pressure is more than in other places because when the team loses, the captain's head comes on the chopping block, otherwise the board is removed. There were about 17 changes in the 10-12 years after I left. When I came in, there was a players' revolt against the captain and I was the compromise. In my 10 years I never had a problem. I had the complete respect of the team.
Politics is cut-throat. I find myself far better equipped than my colleagues because I learnt to compete and take knocks from sport. There is no better preparation for politics. It is the ultimate in character-building. Being a political leader is like being a cricket captain. You walk out to a stadium full of people, all responsibility on you, and if you can learn to take that responsibility, it equips you to do anything in life.