Friday, 30 November 2012

Imran Khan was as complete a cricketer as one could be

There's no question Imran Khan is Pakistan's greatest-ever player:

Nobody's a perfect cricketer, but even his rivals will probably agree that Imran Khan comes pretty close. There's no question he is Pakistan's greatest-ever player, but even that description is an understatement. In fact, he has been world-class in batting, bowling, fielding and captaincy. Even among the game's absolute elite, hardly anyone can make that claim.

Nor did he slow down after retiring from cricket. It would have been entirely natural for him to climb into a comfortable zone of exalted reverence, but he gave that a pass. Instead, he single-handedly founded a philanthropic cancer hospital in Lahore in the memory of his late mother that has become one of Pakistan's premier medical institutes. Now, having just turned 60, he heads a political party that appears poised to emerge with influence in the country's next general election.

The passage of years has made it clear that Imran is really one perfect storm of a man in whom multiple natural gifts - ability, ambition, drive, personality, looks, physique, and pedigree - have come together spectacularly. He was born with advantages and he has gone on to make the most of them.

His family background (Lahore aristocracy) and schooling (Aitchison College, Pakistan's Eton) are as good as it gets in this part of the world. Then there is his unparalleled cricket education, starting from the family compound in Lahore's Zaman Park under the watchful eyes of Majid Khan and Javed Burki, going on to Oxford University, domestic seasons in England and Australia, Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket, an old-fashioned apprenticeship in reverse swing with Sarfraz Nawaz, and a complex partnership in battlefield tactics with Javed Miandad.

People say that if Imran succeeds in becoming a statesman, he will have achieved more than any other cricketer. Yet what he has achieved already - setting the philanthropy and politics aside - is quite incredible. As a bowler, his Test average, economy, and strike rate are all better than Wasim Akram's, which is a huge statement when you consider that for two years in his prime, Imran had to sit out with a stress fracture of the shin. And though his career Test batting average is only in the high 30s, it jumps to 52.34 in his 48 Tests as captain; astonishingly this is higher than the corresponding figure for Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar, Clive Lloyd, Allan Border, Sunil Gavaskar, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Len Hutton, and yes, even Miandad.

His fielding never gets talked about because it has been diluted by so much else, but Imran was an excellent outfielder - an extremely safe pair of hands both in catching and ground-fielding, and possessing a near-perfect arm from the boundary. He exercised tirelessly and his body language was always attentive and athletic. He might have adopted a regal air after becoming captain, but his commitment in the field was never diminished.

No comments:

Post a Comment