THE BEST PACESETTER: IMRAN KHAN

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When you talk about some of the greatest captains in the history of Cricket, Imran Khan is a name which comes in your mind among the first few names. Imran Khan did not only lead from the front, but also gave some very big names to Pakistan Cricket, including Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mushtaq Ahmed. Many captains have won the World Cup, but not many had confidence in their team like Imran Khan.

Despite having a bad start to his Test career, where he was dismissed for a duck and had to stay out of the team for many years, Imran Khan made a very strong comeback and his performance changed completely. This is what International Cricket Council (ICC) poll on Twitter was about. Imran Khan had average around 25 with both bat and ball before taking command of the team, but after becoming captain, he averaged around 52 with the bat and 20 with the ball, which has a difference of 32.

Although India’s Virat Kohli was also a strong candidate, against Imran Khan. The current Indian skipper had average of 51.29 before becoming skipper but after taking command of the team, Kohli has an average of 73.88. But Kohli has not won any ICC Championship, as he choked in the final of Champions Trophy 2017 against Pakistan and then he lost to New Zealand in the semifinal of 2019 World Cup. Another candidate in front of Imran Khan was South Africa’s Ab De Villiers, who had an average of 45.97 as non-captain and improved a lot with an average of 63.94 later. But De Villiers also could not bring any silverware for his team as captain.

Imran Khan enjoyed great success throughout the decade of 1980s as captain as Pakistan won 23 matches against India and lost only 10 throughout the decade against their arch-rivals India, although Indian side had legends like Sunil Gavaskar and Kapil Dev in their team during that period. That also included 3-0 test series win against the Indian side, in which Imran Khan led from the front and claimed 40 wickets in 6 matches, which is a record as no Asian bowler has claimed more wickets in a series.

It was a dream for Imran Khan to win World Cup for Pakistan and those who know Imran Khan, also know that once he makes his mind to do something, he does not fail often and does everything possible to achieve that. The World Cup of 1987 was held in Asia and Pakistan was among the favourites. Pakistan were in the stronger group, along with England and West Indies, the two time former champions.

Pakistan against all the odds topped the group by beating England twice, who were the eventual finalists. They won 5 games in a row by beating West Indies in the process as well, but lost the last group game. It broke the winning streak and also messed up the rhythm as Pakistan succumbed to a defeat against Australia in the semifinal.

Pakistan were looking strong until Imran Khan was batting as he had a 112 runs partnership with Javed Miandad after coming to bat at 38/3. But he got dismissed for 50 and that started the batting collapse for Pakistan. Although he announced retirement after the loss, General Zia-ul-Haq, the President of Pakistan requested him to comeback one year later and try his luck for the final time in 1992 World Cup.

The Pakistani team was termed as “Cornered Tigers” by Imran Khan for the 1992 World Cup, as the team lost two of their main players Saeed Anwar and Waqar Younis due to injuries prior to the event. Imran Khan believed that team will roar and come back like tigers, as the tiger bounces back strongest when he is injured. And team had a journey actually like a cornered tiger.

The Green shirts lost their opening match against West Indies by 10 wickets and also failed against arch rivals India. They could not win against South Africa as well and were bowled out for just 74 runs against England. It looked like Pakistan’s journey was over but rain helped Pakistan stay in the contention.

The coach of Pakistani team, Intikhab Alam joked to Imran Khan that maybe that should pack their bags and prepare to fly back home, but Imran Khan still was very serious about winning the World Cup and told him with confidence that they will only go back after winning the World Cup.

The tables turned quickly and Pakistan defeated the hosts Australia, Sri Lanka and then the unbeaten New Zealand to make their way to the semifinal. They also got some assistance from luck, as Australia, who were already out of the event, defeated West Indies in the last group match to help Pakistan.

New Zealand, who were at their best, gave Pakistan a challenging target of 262 runs and it looked like they were surely on their way to Melbourne to face England in the final. But Inzamam-ul-Haq played one of the best knocks and had a big partnership with Javed Miandad to guide the Pakistani team home. It was also a master stroke from Imran Khan, who gave chances to Inzamam-ul-Haq despite his bad form and although Inzamam did not want to play, Imran Khan told him that he will play at any cost and will win it for Pakistan.

In the final Pakistan lost two wickets quickly and then it was Imran Khan who scored a fifty and top scored with 72 runs. He helped Pakistan score 249 and then claimed the final wicket to register the biggest win in history of Pakistan cricket. When the team was celebrating in the dressing room, it was seen that Imran Khan had bandage on his shoulder but did not want to affect the morale of his team by disclosing this openly.

Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Mahrendra Singh Dhoni are other captains who changed their teams and won a lot, but none of them had an impact like Imran Khan. This is the reason players like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and others who played under him believe that there cannot be any skipper who can change things like the Great Imran Khan.

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