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The Lion of Lahore
Imran Khan (Imran Khan Niazi) a popular face of Pakistan Politics now a day, once donned playboy image, is an eternal face of Pakistan Cricket who put Pakistan on world map in cricket as well as in politics. The more you study, the more you know, how less you know - the name Imran Khan is good enough to make you think and explore more about him.
Khan was born 25 November 1952 in Lahore to father Ikramullah Khan Niazi (civil engineer) and mother Shaukat Khanum, a family belonged to Niazi Pastun tribe from northwest Punjab, Pakistan. He was the only son in the family with other four being sisters. A quiet and shy boy in his youth grew up in a relatively affluent family and had received quality education at Aitchison College in Lahore and the Royal Grammer School Worcester in England. Mr Khan graduated with honours in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Keble College, Oxford in 1975. Imran’s maternal family has produced several successful cricketers such as Javed Burki, Majid Khan and paternal family Misbah-ul-Haq.
Imran made first class debut at the age of sixteen in Lahore in 1970s. It was as on-off affair as far as his performance concerned, he then joined University of Oxford’s Blues Cricket team during 1973-75. He was part of the county cricket clubs like Worcestershire 1971-76 and Sussex 1983-88. That is where he learned average medium paced bowling that shaped his cricket career later on.
His Test debut was against England at Birmingham in 1971 summer but he only cemented his place in National Test squad only in 1976. Khans’ first appearance for Pakistan in ODI occurred in the Prudential Trophy at Nottingham against England in 1974. In late 1976 Imran Khan played against New Zealand-took impressive 14 wickets in the series and later toured Australia. On this tour he destroyed Australia, their home series, on Sydney track took 6 wickets haul and first ten of the match in Tests. This remains the best bowling figures by any Pakistani bowler in Australia. Following up this magnificent run, he took 25 wickets at average of 20.84 against West Indies, the biggies, in two world-series. In ODI too, there is no different story for this Lahore boy. Regularly picking up wickets and scoring runs when required, the qualities he possessed were only tip of the ice berg what was to follow in coming decade, turned Imran Khan in to world’s greatest all-rounder.
Era of Glory
In 1980s, Imran Khan was at his peak of his carrier and remained in top 5 players of world cricket. His batting average of 40 and bowling average of 18 or less just shows how dominant was. He was even more lethal during 1981-83, averaged 48 with bat and took 104 wickets with the mind boggling average of just 14.87, including his 8 times 5 wickets haul. He humiliated Australia, taking 29 wickets at average of 16.65 and India, by destroying the famed batting line up, with 40 wickets at average of 13.95. He grabbed 5 times Man of the Match awards during this series in 1982-83. In the third match of that series against India, Imran scored 117 in Pakistan's first innings and had match figures of 11 for 117, making him one of only two players - Ian Botham is the other - to score a century and take ten wickets in the same Test. During this year he was named “wisdom cricketer of the year”.
The All-rounder’s knack
Test Debut: Pakistan Vs England at Birmingham June 3-8, 1971
Last Test: Pakistan Vs Sri Lanka at Faisalabad, Jan 2-7, 1992
ODI debut: Pakistan Vs England at Nottingham August 31, 1974
Last ODI: Pakistan Vs England at Melbourne March 25, 1992
During his peak years in Test cricket, Imran was easily the best all-rounder among his peers like Richard Hadlee, Kapil Dev and Ian Botham. No one was able to match up the way he balanced his acts with bat and ball every time walked on the ground. In this period he was the best bowler in the world with the average of 17.77 and strike rate of less than 44 balls per wicket. One of the highlights of Imran's career was his battles against the best team of his times, West Indies. As a batsman he wasn't as effective against them, but as a bowler he was superb, taking 80 wickets at 21.18. Perhaps even more impressive, than his individual performances against West Indies, was the manner in which Imran inspired his team to raise their level against them. He led them on three occasions versus West Indies between 1985 and 1990, and each series was a classic, with each team winning a Test every time. During that period Pakistan was the only team to win more than one Test against West Indies. Khan achieved the all-rounder's triple (securing 3000 runs and 300 wickets) in 75 Tests, the second fastest record behind Ian Botham’s 72. He is also a batsman playing at 6th position in batting order the second highest all-time batting average of 61.86 for Test.
Captain with World Cup success-retirement
Imran Khan took over the captaincy from Javed Miandad in 1982. He played 48 Test matches- won 14, lost 8, drew 26. Played 139 ODIs, won 77, lost 57 and tied 1. As a captain he led Pakistan’s first Test win on English soil at Lord’s in 28 yrs. During this he had phenomenal run as fast bowler who destroyed every opposition like Sri Lanka 1981-82, England in 1982 and India at home. By the end of 1982-83 he begged 88 wickets in 13 matches as captain. Khan sustained stress fracture in one of the Test against India which took him out from the cricket for more than two years. With the help of Pakistani Government he successfully operated and made recovery and made comeback again in International cricket arena in 1984. He led his team to victory in 1987 against India and England in quick succession.
He gave up captaincy and retired from International cricket after dismal performance in 1988 World Cup co-hosted by India. But Pakistan wanted more from Imran Khan and honouring request from President of Pakistan, General Zia-Ul-Haq, on 18th January 1988 he returned to cricket and immediately got Pakistan cricket team back to winning ways over West Indies with Man of the Match performance.
That Wounded Tiger moment
Pakistan’s world cup campaign was completely embarrassing, winning only one group game against Zimbabwe and a washed out game against England, promised them to the second stage of the world cup. But in no manner it was easy in next stages as the teams were Australia, Sri Lanka and New-Zealand. When everybody, in the dressing room and the team management, were preparing to fly back home, he gave a speech of self belief to the fellow players “I want my team to play like a cornered wounded Tiger when it’s at most dangerous. I’m not a loser, I’m not going back, and we have to win. I want you to deeply think about our journey, if we can win it from here nobody can stop us” Those words inspired team mates and as a result they overcame mighty Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand. In the final against England after winning toss Imran the captain chose to bat first, he promoted him to No 3 position, a brave gamble, to leave room for late assault for middle order batsmen like Inzaman and Akram. The moment of golden history was there for Imran Khan who took the last wicket to lift the 1992 World Cup for Pakistan that changed the face of Cricket for the nation. Imran Khan eventually chose to end the career with this moment of glory that Pakistan, could not have asked for more.
The reverse swing controversy
Imran was one of the first to fuse outright pace with an understanding of reverse swing. Sarfraz Nawaz, believed by many to be the first user of the art, passed on his knowledge and Imran used it to deadly effect on the placid pitches of the sub-continent, previously seen as a pace bowler’s graveyard. Reverse swing has for some time proved controversial and this came to a head during 1992 when Pakistan toured England. Notably Wasim Akram & Waqar Younis, ripped through the English side with a combination of pace, orthodox and reverse swing. Their ability to generate significant reverse swing caused the media and several ex-players to question the legality of it. The ‘debate’ continued and in 1993, Sarfraz Nawaz took former England International Allan Lamb to court over comments relating to ball-tampering. Imran gave several interviews and released a book over this period – in the book he disclosed that he once used a bottle top to roughen the ball in a county game. Imran claimed that all bowlers tampered to some extent – it was these comments that caused Ian Botham to sue. Further court action followed when Imran supposedly referred to Lamb and Botham as ‘racist, ill-educated and lacking in class’ and the pair took him to court for libel. Imran claimed he had been misquoted and was cleared in a case referred to as ‘a complete exercise in futility’. However the case still simmered away and Botham & Lamb returned to court a few years later in attempt to appeal against the initial ruling, eventually deciding to stop after spiralling court costs.
Off field- Social & Political Image
Imran Khan focused more on social work and community development after retiring from international cricket. He founded Shaukat Khanum Memorial Trust in 1991 (in memory of his late mother who died untimely due to cancer), which actively worked on the research and development of cancer and other related diseases. Khan vowed to address this major issue and was convinced to open an appropriate cancer facility catering to all social segments of the country. On December 29, 1994, Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital was officially integrated in Lahore, Pakistan- the largest cancer hospital in the country serving the underprivileged stratum of the society. The poor people of the country are treated free of charge and are constantly kept a check on for future reference.
Imran Khan was never limited to just cricket during his entire life. When in England he use to socialize and got involved in high profile relationships, earned him playboy tag. He got married to Jemmima Goldsmith (first wife) in 1995 – daughter of Sir James Goldsmith. This marriage hit headlines and caused quite a stir as Imran being twice of her age, cultural and religiously (Jemmima being Jewish marring in to Islamic family). Jemima Khan converted to Islam shortly after the marriage and gave birth to their first child, Suleiman Issa in 1996 and in 1999 they had a second son, Qassim. She helped him with fund-raising for the hospital and when Imran went into politics, she supported him on the campaign trail, but the cross-culture nature of the relationship put strains on them both and they announced their divorce in 2004. As of now he has been married to British-Pakistani journalist Reham Khan in private ceremony.
Imran entered into politics and founded his own party, Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) in 1997, though he has struggled to garner the sort of support he received during his playing days. In 1999 he supported the coup that brought General Musharraf to power but has since become one of his most outspoken critics. Culminating recently in his detention under house arrest following General Musharraf’s declaration of a state of emergency, he managed to escape only to be arrested on his reappearance in public, possibly on terrorism charges. Khan contested for a National Assembly seat in October 2002 elections and served as a Member Parliament from NA- 71, Mianwali until 2007. With steady developments in the ring, PTI continues to grow under the leadership of Imran Khan.
Beside all these activities he has published non-fiction work including an autobiography co-written with Patrick Murphy. He periodically writes editorial in leading dailies and journals on politics and cricket.
Imran Khan is and always will be remembered as the Lion of Lahore all around the world and Pakistan, due to his ability pick himself , reinvent and motivate the people surrounded in averse conditions be it on the cricket field or in real life. His activeness in current political stage in Pakistan resonate his idea that one must not run away from the situation and shall work to improve regardless of outcome.